Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Brightening a Faded Valentine

Brightening a Faded Valentine

As a rule I refrain from pronouncing the word “spring” in January. My lips are sealed. My pen is prohibited. In February, however, I take liberty. Oh, I still keep the winter décor on the windowsill but I allow myself to daydream of spring - because spring is not as far off.

A New Flower to Anticipate
I believe in the elixir of anticipation. Back in autumn I planted some snowdrop bulbs. They are of the earliest spring flowers. Having grown familiar with gardening shortcomings, when planting bulbs I surrounded those of snowdrop with crocus. The crocus are my consolation when snowdrops won’t thrive. Snowdrops bulbs are so tiny and delicate I’ve begun to wonder if they dry-out in shops while on display.

In The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady Edith Holden features snowdrops as a February flower. The winter I spent in England I couldn’t believe my eyes. When I observed what was taking place in a cement planter just outside the landlord’s French doors I was astonished. Flowers in February? I’ve been charmed by snowdrops ever since. Snowdrops will bloom in America’s northern states but somewhat later. This is fine with me because they would be buried deep in Pennsylvania’s snow otherwise. I am content to wait and anticipate.

A Winter-y Mix
Meanwhile, any-and-all combinations of what meteorologists call, “a winter-y mix” befall us. Roads are hazardous, appointments are rescheduled or “braved.”  Many are the days of gray skies, of wearing the same fuzzy sweater, of making yet another batch of hearty soup. Children have colds. But little ones can be peevish when indoors too much. (William prefers a romp outdoors in the snow.)

In such conditions it may become difficult for the homemaker to conquer and conceal the doldrums. To top it all, would I be singing out of tune if I questioned February as being the best month for feeling as bright and affectionate as a Valentine is expected to feel? Wouldn’t April be better suited?

A Change of Scenery
To rise to the challenge of February I’ve followed the advice of a change of scenery. Yes, a change of scenery can be had within the confines of four winter walls. It lies in a good story. With my shoulders wrapped in a wool shawl, knit primarily for winter reading, I will reach for something adventurous. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim, published in 1923 is on my list of favorites.

I found the film “Enchanted April” so inspiring, so uplifting, so unlike other films, that I sought after the story in print. Amidst last winter’s two blizzards I feasted. Turning a few pages of The Enchanted April at eventide fortified my emotions, piqued my wifely sympathies, and made me a new set of book friends.    

Page one sets the stage. It is February in London during the early 20th century. On a miserable gray, cold and wet afternoon Mrs. Wilkins, running her listless eye down a newspaper column saw this:

To those who appreciate Wisteria and Sunshine. Small mediaeval Italian castle on the shore of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain.  Z., Box 1000, The Times.   

She was entirely unaware at that moment that her April had been settled for her.

A Beautiful Story and a Beautiful Film
As the story unfolds Mrs. Wilkins and three other very different women (two wives who are faded Valentines) divide the cost of the Italian castle between them and look forward to their own private Ladies Retreat. In their exotic and serene surroundings they relax and are ponderous. The story is beautiful both in setting and sentiments. As the garden blossoms in the bright Italian sunshine so do the hearts of the characters.

A married woman who might be feeling a little faded will be affirmed and encouraged in her desire to be her husband’s bright Valentine.

WIP (work-in-progress) Update
Charlotte Bronte’s sampler is at the framers. I’m working on a pair of mittens with my homespun.

Post Script
The 1992 film stars Miranda Richardson, Josie Lawrence, Polly Walker and Joan Plowright. My DVD is decorated with faux lily-of-the-valley.

The pattern for the garter-stitch blue shawl can be found in my book, A Charlotte Mason Companion of all places. The photograph of the shawl is a candid shot taken on Christmas Day. I reserve the e-bay vintage Laura Ashley corduroy dress for home celebrations.

I was tickled to find hearts with snowdrops (above) in my old clip-art book. On the subject of flowers the Victorians had it covered.

  My Regards,
Karen Andreola 


  1. Thank you for the book recommendation and the movie too. I will have to get those.

    I love your shawl!

  2. Karen,
    I was so delighted to see you blogging. You stopped by my blog, Blueberry Cottage and left a lovely note. I am not sure if you remembered me, I hosted you and Dean in Massachusetts for a Charlotte Mason mini-conference at my church oh, some 12 years ago now. How time flies! Your Sophia a mom now and mine on the verge of 12. We had a lovely dinner out and I distinctly remember my husband and yours talking science fiction:-) Your shawl is beautiful! I made a red one after the Tasha Tudor pattern that I oft wear in my chilly old house. I also wanted to point you in the direction of a story I am writing called When Queen's Ride by-Jenny's Journey Home--it is a continuation of Alice Turnballs 1888 story. I always wondered how Jennie turned out:-) Well, I am writing it in diary form, similiar to your book Pocketful of Pinecones, which I adore. Anyway, so nice to bump into you on the web.

  3. Karen,

    The girls and I still remember fondly our evening watching 'Enchanted April' with you. I looked and saw that it is available on Netflix instant play so we will be watching it again soon.

    I am going to check my book now for that shawl pattern - I love it!

    Love to you, Dean and Nigel!


  4. I must now order your book with the pattern in it. What a beautiful shawl.I am a beginner knitter, so this may be beyond my skill.I still would like the challenge. Once again, thank you for a most lovely post Karen.
    Dawn E. Brown

  5. Karen,
    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and leaving your lovely comment!
    I have most of your books and cherish them. I did not know that you had a blog, but am thrilled with your lovely and gentle posts.
    I just put a hold on the movie Enchanted April as that would be something I think i would enjoy.
    I am also a fan of Edith Holden and have two of her books.
    Thank you again for your kind words,
    Joanne at Seasonal Hearth

  6. Have I been away so long? Your new web log design is beautiful!

  7. My Dear Ladies,
    I would be interested to hear if the film Enchanted April uplifted or inspired you in any way. Write me anytime.

    Do you really like my blue (with flecks of purple) shawl? One of two long-wearing shawls are what I reach for when it comes to winter reading. Both are a simple and durable garter stitch with an edging.

    I have two delicate lace shawls started with finger weight (not lace weight) yarn but am not happy with the result. I will "try, try again" when my motivation is again fresh. I was hoping to make something for an air-conditioned church service. These kinds of temporarily abandoned projects are the "flip" side of a post.

    Your comments are appreciated and are like a greeting card to me. Thank you.
    Karen A.

  8. I enjoyed this movie immensely :)

    I will now begin the hunt for the book. I prefer books to movies...

    I am also knitting a shawl but this one is for spring/summer reading.

    Mrs. M.

  9. Love your story, Karen. Nice greeting from Indonesia :)

  10. The Enchanted April sounds intriguing. I am going to try to get it through inter-library loan. I've not made a shawl yet, I'm working through the yarn given to me to make hats right now. I think I'm going to try this pattern for the CC Copy Cat Beanie soon. Here it is on Ravelry: , and here it is on the person's blog: .

    Are you on Ravelry? I am harvestlanelaura. I'd love to be friends if you use it, too.

    I want to dig out my book and see if your shawl looks like one I could try. It's pretty.
    God bless you,