Saturday, July 30, 2011

A White Robin

A White Robin

The Lady-of-the-House sipped a green smoothie for breakfast. She stood staring out the French doors of her kitchen/keeping room, rather than exiting them. It was hazy and already hot at 8 o’clock in the morning. It would be another 100F degree-day in July. The public was urged to stay indoors due to dangerous air quality. She stood mesmerized and motionless watching a flock of robins eating their breakfast on the lawn. 

She was contemplating what to do with the pumpkin zucchinis (her word for them) that she had been harvesting from one prolific plant - trying to remember what had come over her to buy the seedling in the first place; novelty she supposed. I’ll carve out the seeds, fill them with seasoned brown rice and bake them, she mused.

First I want to work on that apron I started months ago. It’s been a work-in-progress too long, she sighed. What a time she had with it over the summer. It is a fussy pattern. She almost made a mess of it by taking it in three inches on both sides of the bodice. She questioned why she trusted claims of one-size-fits-all while she sewed buttons (as camouflage) over the places where she had made adjustments indelicately. She took a break and laid it over a chair for another day.

Having finished the last bite of his toast, the son of the Lady-of-the-House noticed her staring out the French doors. He stepped up beside her. “Mom, what are all those spotted birds?”

“Teen-age robins,” she answered. “They still wear the speckled breast of fledgling days but are almost as large as the adults.” This satisfied him and he left the room to start his day at the computer.

That is when she spotted it - a white robin - not snow white but a creamy blonde. It had an orange breast but the rest of it was blonde – beak and all. She was excited. 

“Get the camera,” she called out. "It's a white robin." His office being in earshot, these words sent the Man-of-the-House jettisoning into the kitchen with camera in hand.


“There,” she pointed.

“Why isn’t the camera beeping?” he said. He then realized that it was set on manual focus. “I’ll be right back.”

“Where are you going?” his wife spoke to his back – in a tone of anxiety.

“To get the telephoto lens.”

When he returned the bird, by that time, had left the feeding ground and had fluttered onto a branch. “I see it,” said the Man-of-the-House twisting his large lens in place. Then he dashed outside. One shot (blurry) was taken from a distance in the nick of time before it flew further into the woods.

“I can’t believe I saw a white robin,” said the Lady-of-the-House. I guess they're on my mind. You did just order that copy of The White Robin for me a few nights ago. The coincidence is uncanny.” She was preparing a post to recommend the stories by Miss Read – delightful stories in which she occasionally indulges. This gave her the idea to add a few more novels to her collection.

That afternoon the book order arrived. The White Robin was in the parcel. “I can’t believe it,” she said again.
“You should tell your blog friends,” suggested the Man-of-the-House.
“I will.”

Albino robins or red-breasted blonde robins aren’t as rare, perhaps, as people suppose. One only has to do some lingering to look. A few days hence the Lady-of-the-House had another visitation of the blonde robin. It landed in view while she was at the kitchen sink washing dishes. She began calling it her robin. Within the week her new-used library discard of The White Robin was read and enjoyed. Truth can be as strange as fiction, she pondered as she closed the book – twisting a line from Shakespeare. 

She was also happy to have finished her apron.

The White Robin (out-of-print) begins with a child of the village school spotting an unusual white bird on a hot day in July. It is part of the Fairacre series. Village School begins the series. Here we meet, Miss Read, the main character of most of the Fairacre novels. She is hired as the headmistress of the two-room village school and proves a dedicated teacher. She enjoys her quiet single-hood when off duty but also takes part in village festivities.

Nothing too dramatic happens in Fairacre. In fact it might be said that there is less conflict in Fairacre than may exist in our own face-paced lives. Many find it soothing to read about the routines of a long-established way of life in an English village where people walk to shops, greet passers by, pop in for chats and sips of tea. Simple folk with good manners (most of them) live their tidy British lives among stone churches, train stations, hedgerows, thatched houses and back gardens lined with ancient perennial flowerbeds. Beyond the village is the tranquil countryside where Miss Read leads her children on nature walks whenever it fancies, whenever the weather is ideal for it.

Inside any copy of a Fairacre novel is a handy list of other books in the series. All the stories make for the kind of light easy reading so appreciated at the end of a particularly tiring day.

A favorite of the Lady-of-the-House is Miss Clare Remembers (out-of-print). In the early part of the 20th century Miss Clare is a little girl who lives in a white cottage that her father freshly thatches. When a young woman she looses the young man she loves in the First World War. Miss Clare teaches the youngest students of Fairacre's village school without a college degree but with some training. Her firm-but-kind methods are carried out in a lady-like demeanor to her credit.

Mrs. Pringle of Fairacre was chosen as a read-aloud after Village School to share with a grown daughter. It is a good example of how to get along graciously (and with sympathy and a sense of humor) with those one or two people God may put into our lives who are “prickly.”

The Man-of-the House voiced his liking of the new apron. Therefore, the Lady-of-the-House is saving it for “best.” She cannot bear the thought of finding a splash of spaghetti sauce on it – not until she makes another one – from another pattern – with less fuss. For now, it rests on the drying rack of the kitchen/keeping room.

Post Script
If you have a copy of Edith Holden’s The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, you may be interested in page seven. In her January 26th 1906 entry she talks about a “curious robin” . . . that “when it is flying it looks like a white bird with a scarlet breast.”

Hasn’t Baby gotten roly-poly?

Indoors, lingering at windows, lingering with book friends, anticipating a visit from grandsons,

Karen Andreola


  1. What a lovely post! I love Miss Read. I have read most of her books but I have not read the white robin. I will have to search for that. I have never seen a White Robin. Thank you for sharing your picture.

    We have an Albino Dove that visits our feeders quite often.

    Your apron is lovely!

  2. What a simply beautiful post! I enjoyed seeing the apron completed. There is nothing like finishing something by sure does bring joy to our lives.


  3. What a beautiful apron. I'm not surprised you don't want a splash of sauce on it.
    Oh, what a delightful photo of chubby chops... delicious!

  4. Very pretty apron! I think the gathering foot would make life easier - maybe...

    I've never seen a white robin, either.

    And the grandson certainly is a cutie :)

  5. I've been making napkins this week. So far, I've finished twelve brown/tan/ecru plaid ones.

    Yes! Baby is beautiful. I love his delighted smile.

    Isn't it interesting how connections (books, birds, etc.) sometimes pop up everywhere? It fascinates me. So often this will happen with my personal Bible study and our preacher's sermons.

    We've been enduring 100 F degree weather here (Midd. Tennessee) as well. Thirst is ever present. Even with air conditioning (and plenty of it I might add) it's still hot hot hot.

    It is a pleasure to read about sewing, reading, birds, and grandsons.

    Thank you,

  6. Two new things for me today ....white robins and books about Miss Read. I will have to be on the look out for them both!

  7. Your apron is so pretty! Where did you get your pattern?

  8. Ladies,

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

    The pattern is by Sew Liberated:

    The Man-of-the-House, who had popped into "Kindred Quilts" with me, saw the pattern and purchased it. I was quite surprised because he usually has no opinion on such things. It really was about time I had a nice new apron.

    I'm looking forward to seeing Joseph's smile in person soon.

    Karen A.

  9. Such a lovely post Karen, thanks for sharing your bird sighting with us. We are enjoying the humming birds in our garden this month. I was just looking longingly at the Country Diary and now I will be sure to paruse page seven. Thanks for the picture of the Baby, He's beautiful.
    Lord Bless you and yours,

  10. Karen,

    I will now be on the look out for a 'blonde' robin! How interesting.

    I have read Village School by Miss Read. I enjoyed it and will need to find the others you mentioned.

    Your apron is very nice -

    As to Joseph...what a delight! I just want to hold his squishiness!


  11. Karen, your post reminded me that I had recently read another recommendation of the Miss Read books. So I promptly went on-line to purchase some. I am excited to discover this new (to me) author.

    I do own a copy of the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady (another recommendation from you!0 and so I was delighted to look up the reference you cited to the white robin. It was touching to see her concern that the bird might fall prey to someone's gun! We know that "your" white robin will always be safe in your garden!

    Thank you for sharing, as always. I simply love your new apron - it looks so sweet and feminine on you. And the grandson? Simply adorable.

    Peace for your new week -

  12. Wherefore the reader of the lady of the house's blog expresses her deep satisfaction with all of the ideas and inspirations presented... and the roly-poly baby!!

    Blessings, Debbie

  13. The apron is lovely! Well worth the effort, I'd say.
    I thoroughly enjoyed listening to your Mother Culture CD. You have such a delightful voice!

  14. The apron is very pretty, I am sure it will get much use.The grandson is adorable, so so sweet.I can imagine that soft baby skin as you nuzzle his round little face.Am looking forward to your CD arriving here soon.Have never heard of a blonde robin. Very interesting post, thanks for sharing. God bless your week Karen.

  15. The Miss Read books are delightful, aren't they? Have you read any of the Thrush Green series? They are just as lovely as the Fairacre novels.The apron is lovely, and that roly poly little grandson is adorable! What fun!

  16. Please let us know how the pumpkin zucchinis turn out . . . what a beautiful "conversation vegetable"! I'm looking for the Miss Read books in our library, so hopefully I can enjoy them in these last days of summer. Thank you for the recommendation!

    PS - Love the roly poly cherub grandson!

  17. tell a story with such beauty Karen.
    Several things on my mind here.
    First, I love that apron! You did a wonderful job on it. Doesn't it make you so happy when your husband loves it too:) Second, what lovely photos you've captured to go along with your sweet story here. I love the black eyed susans in the window. So colorful.
    Oh goodness that boy is some kind of handsome. Sweet cheeks indeed:)

    And last but not least. During my baby shower, I was gifted with Lesson's at Blackberry Inn. I'm reading it and smitten by it already! I can hardly put it down. I just finished reading the chapter where you quoted the poem "home". How I can't tell you that it spoke right to my heart. too much to say in a small comment box.


  18. Ah Miss Read...a beautiful retreat from our daily world.

    I've never seen white robins. White squirrels and even a strange cinnamon squirrel (we live where there are grey squirrels and an occasional red squirrel that ventures from regions south of us). The coloring of the cinnamon squirrel reminded me of a roan.

    The apron is lovely. I would suggest it was worth the patient effort.

    Too bad you can't send the zucchini this way. I planted two hills. One hill never sprouted and the plants on the second hill are rotting before they grow to a reasonable size. I've never had problems with zucchini before.

  19. I read this earlier but didn't get a chance to post comment until today. The very day I read it, I was perusing my book shelf and noticed The White Robin! What a coincidence.

    I only have a few (hardback) Miss Read books. I had some older paperbacks (not the nice ones put out since Jan Karon helped make her famous) but I gave them away to introduce Miss Read to another.

    I love her Christmas books, there are three or four of them. Each a stand alone book... so I have recommended them to friends new to Miss Read.

    Hehehe, I have "Country Diary" because of your recommendation a very long time ago. :)

  20. My apron pattern arrived today! You pass along such delightful project ideas.

    I've never cut bias tape before. I felt quite uncoordinated as I tried to piece the first sections together. After the first one, it became easy to visualize and pin.

    Many thanks,

  21. I loved this post, too. Eager to get a copy of a Miss Read book, and find Lark Rise To Candleford. I was also thrilled to learn about a white robin! Can't wait to show my boys. I was looking at the heading of your blog from across the room as I washed the last stray dishes of the evening, and thought how perfectly it fits your blog. I always feel calmed and encouraged after reading here. I have gotten to your other websites with the articles from this blog, but I can't remember how. I wondered if you had ever considered putting in links to your other sites from this blog. Thank you, Karen!

  22. I'm planning to make a second apron using this pattern, but I'm not making it reversable. I find the reversable one to be too heavy for my liking. We shall see...


  23. Ladies,
    When I read your comments it is as if you popped 'round for a little chat in my kitchen on the way to the shops or after returning from a child's music lesson. Thank you for sharing my excitement in spotting the white robin.

    The poem "Home" I feature in Blackberry Inn gives me goose bumps. It is a good reminder to a young mother to enjoy her children while they are children still.

    Our two zucchini plants are beset with mildew but persevere.

    To access the articles on Homeschool Highlights click any book in the sidebar, then click "Articles" top left. A widget is needed.

    My apron isn't lined either.
    Karen A.

  24. How I have been enjoying your blog. I found it because you visited me at Heart for home-making. I don't get much time to blog or go visiting at the moment. As I live in England, UK, I am very familiar with Miss Read. I have all her books and reread most of them over and over. I prefer the Fairacre stories. However, my favourites are 'No Holly for Miss Quinn' and especially 'The Christmas Mouse'