Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Finishing Touches

Finishing Touches
   The largest portion of a mother’s efforts goes into the priorities. First things first. Healthy meals, clean clothes and a clean house require nothing short of exertion.

   A mother attends to the business of seeing that the children have something to eat, something to wear, and something to learn each day. A little creativity expressed in providing all these things can make a mother’s work more enjoyable. This is how she mixes business with pleasure.

   She enjoys putting a personal touch into her work if even in a small way. Her menial tasks feel lighter and her chores carry with them a special shade of meaning when a little spare energy is available for finishing touches.

   The yellow kitchen of the Lady-of-the-House is a working kitchen – best known for its messes. One rainy morning she dolled up the sink with sunflowers. It made an overcast day feel more cheery. 

   Finishing touches speak, “This is home” even if a family is renting and their location is temporary. When an idea makes its appeal a homemaker will set aside a little energy for the pleasant task of taking steps to see it through. A chair could be painted a courageous color – or a door (if the landlord permits). A seasonal table could be kept at the door for young children to display their finds. A few flowers gathered from the garden, a basket of picture books by the sofa, a garnish of fresh herbs to an entree, - a set of cloth napkins, an accent pillow or curtain she might sew - bring taste, color, interest, and comfort to the home.

   Perhaps, at this time in her life, a busy mother hasn’t the where-with-all for finishing touches. She may have just had a baby or adopted a toddler. She might be recovering from surgery or experiencing an exhausting household relocation. She could be driving a loved one for frequent medical treatment. Until she can pick up her paintbrush, needle, or garden trowel again, what she can do is bless her chores with a smile – not the least - but the best finishing touch of all. 

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable. Joseph Addison

A Track Record

   Much of the energy spent by the Lady-of-the-House is in the keeping room where her yellow kitchen, dinning area, pantry, and laundry room reside. She almost said collide by a slip of the tongue. For if a dotted line where drawn on the floor tracing her steps it would be a confusing web-like pattern for sure.

   Up and down the blue staircase she goes, too. Her office, where she writes among piles of review materials – and does the ironing - is in the attic on the third floor. 

   Taking a step up the first flight of stairs, she glances through the French doors, into her little parlor. Her eyes rest momentarily on the wing chair. It is conspicuously placed in this inviting spot on purpose. She likes to look at the chair when she isn’t sitting there. It was gotten by inheritance (from a descendent of Emma Cook) and is the prettiest chair she has ever had. When her work is done, here she likes to stitch, read or just rest her head on a wing.

   Afternoon sunlight illuminates the chair brightly making it perfect for needlework. She may not, however, get to that chair until supper dishes are washed up. That’s okay. Enough light reflects off the white walls in summer for her to stitch comfortably for fifteen minutes.

  It’s work before pleasure in the square house. But a moment of refreshment makes a world of difference to the Lady-of-the-House. It allows her to focus on a project for a finishing touch – though it may be months before the project is completed.

Mixing Business with Pleasure

With Summer Flowers

   On Saturday the Man-of-the-House and his Lady walked together through the Grower’s Market. They filled the trunk of the car with local produce. (His Lady has been slicing peaches for the freezer.)

   An Amish mother sells bouquets of her homegrown flowers there. A bucket of individual stems (not shown) was what attracted the Lady-of-the-House. She chose white blooms for one dollar with a mind for adding pink to the vase from her own garden. How long it has been since fresh flowers were in the parlor!

If the English language made sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers. Doug Larson

With a Summer Plate

   While the Man-of-the-House and his Lady were out together poking about a used-miscellaneous-shop, he spotted a set of Brambly Hedge plates. The summer plate features pink flowers for a wedding. “I found something you might like at the far end of the shop,” he says.
   “They’re darling,” she says after following him through the maze of clutter.
   His male ears sometimes tire of the words cute and darling. Regardless of this, she involuntarily uses the words again at home while she sets the plates in the grove of the corner cupboard and adds, “How do you manage to find things like this among all the outdated contraptions, memorabilia, and bric-a-brac?”
   Smirking he replies, “I browse for both of us while you’re talking with your kind at the till.”  

   “Come into the parlor and see my new dessert dishes – one for each season,” the Lady-of-the-House says to her married daughter who is visiting. 
   “Ah, so cute,” her daughter says.

   The lone teacup, which matches the summer plate, really belongs to this 30 year-old daughter who received it as gift on her 16th birthday. “This is my cup isn’t it?” she recalls, fingering it gingerly. 
   “Yes, hum . . . I’m keeping it safe for you,” her mother claims as she closes the cupboard door. With a voice just over a whisper she explains the reason being. It concerns her grandsons who are at an age when their sudden movements fall into the bull-in-a-china-shop – category. “If and when you get the right shelf or cupboard, just say the word and I’ll give your birthday present to you.”
   “Okay Mom,” she acquiesces.

With a Summer Work-in-Progress  

   A new project suggested itself to the Lady-of-the-House this summer – a new-old project actually, for the rug yarn was purchased with anticipation in 2003 when she still lived in Maine. It lay dormant in her stash.

   When she came upon a simple chair pad design on monk’s cloth at a stitchery shop she thought, “This is it - my next finishing touch.” Her anticipation was rekindled. With raspberry, pink, and two greens she hopes to bring the poesy to life. 

   It feels good to make progress – no matter how slowly.

Post Script

   While in the parlor with Dean’s camera around my neck I thought I’d show you my beautifully bound hardcover copy of A Charlotte Mason Companion.

   It has a ribbon place marker. Somehow, A Charlotte Mason Companion washed up on shore in South Korea and the Christians there asked if they could publish the book in their language.

   That was some years ago, but I keep forgetting to tell you about it. I feel deeply honored that they chose to make it a hardcover (and with the finishing touch of a dust-jacket) in our electronic age.  (Click any image to enlarge.)

   I appreciated hearing from you through our post office box this month and filling your orders of the Mother Culture CD. There are plenty in stock.

Thank you for visiting,
Karen Andreola


  1. There are only two females living in this cottage, but I still manage to add those wonderful 'touches' to make our cottage our home.

    Knitted blankets, homemade curtains and pillows, tablecloths... my brood knows that these touches makes this lady of the cottage quite happy :)

    Thank you for inviting me into your home Karen. It was such a lovely visit :)


  2. It's funny that you wrote about this subject. Just yesterday I was chatting with my best girlfriend about not wanting to put too much effort into making our current home "homey" with homemade efforts such as homemade curtains, quilts, etc. We are military and move often, and so I get into that mindset of "oh we are just going to move anyway, so why waste the time." Thank you for the inspiration! I love your kitchen!!! We are considering remodeling our kitchen and are thinking about replacing the regular sink with a farm house sink. May I ask where you purchased your sink from? I love it!

  3. I lived in Korea several years ago. I am hardly speaking from experience as I only lived there for a year and a half, but of the books in bookstores I saw, I don't remember a lot of hardbound books - especially with the nice ribbon and dust jacket. I mostly remember paperback books. They must consider your book a treasure - I know I do!

  4. I adore the Brambly Hedge plates! What a husband, mine would probably throw something on them so I wouldn't see them. :)

    Isn't that amazing about your book? I wonder if Someday we will hear stories of the miraculous way God worked?

    Of course, it found its way in paperback form to this homeschooling mom in the Midwest and the same copy now sits in my daughter's bookshelves.

    She has bookshelves and china cabinets so there is no excuse to share. ;)

  5. Karen,

    What a lovely and inspiring post. I always feel so encouraged to bring joy and love to my day after reading your blog!!

    I LOVE your Brambly Hedge dishes. I love that book. It is so sweet. I just love to look at the pictures.

    Your kitchen is so cheerful. I LOVE your sink. Would love to sit and chat and stitch and sip tea in your parlor with you!

    Your book in Korean is beautiful! I am sure it is a blessing to the families in Korea!!
    I have just started to re-read it again.

    Love, Heather

  6. Thank you for the bright and cheerful tour of your home. Fresh flowers are always lovely. The dessert dishes are adorable!
    Enjoy your day!


  7. Hi Karen!

    What a lovely post. The flowers are so very pretty.

    I have a friend who is feeling pressure from well meaning folks to leave full-time homemaking behind and join the workforce. I've been making a list of "Good Things About Being at Home" for her. I will also suggest that she visit your blog.

    The plates are delightful (HA! There's another female word for the Man-of-the-House to shake his head over.)! They are magical, aren't they?


  8. I enjoy our visits, dear Ladies. Thank you for your messages my way.

    Since most our marriage has been renting and moving I am familiar with the "convenience" of keeping things in storage for a year or more until the next inevitable move - and feeling little enthusiasm in fitting a new set of curtains to a new size window - temporarily. Bedspreads, pillows, posters and picture books in the children's rooms - and our on going Picture Study and Nature Study helped decorate our place when things like china and glass framed art were securely wrapped and stored away.

    The sink is from Bucks County Soapstone (bcsoapstone) and is a slant front. Location - north of Philadelphia. The sink is deep and thus one's upper back gets a work out. Soapstone is a very soft stone and chips and scratches easily. But a light sanding smoothes this out. When you see soapstone in photographs it is usually well oiled. I didn't oil our oft-washed counters and sink for my photograph - though it is something I probably could be doing once-a-week to darken it. If you don't mind gray, Soapstone gives a natural, non-shiny, aged, country look to a kitchen.

    I am always touched to hear when the pages of A Charlotte Mason Companion are open.

    Until later,
    Karen A.

  9. Your chair is lovely! And how smart of you to keep it where you can see it and anticipate sitting in it!

    I love to see your projects - that chair pad is going to be very nice.

    You know I love your kitchen...your whole domain is a delight.


  10. The plates are just so cute. :O)

  11. Oh Karen, I love your plates! Could you please tell me where you got the chair pad pattern? I have been wanting to try hooking and it looks a little less intimidating than some patterns. Thank you, Angela

  12. Cabin Creek Designs made the chair pad pattern. She has two similar designs on monk's cloth on her website under "floral." They would be good for beginning. The flowery rug she is making now on her blog is pretty. I bought my yarn at Halcyon Yarns in Maine. Rug yarn is sold on their website, too. Many like the look and feel of using strips of wool fabric. Others prefer working with yarn.
    Karen A.

  13. It's always a delight to be refreshed here.

    "Until she can pick up her paintbrush, needle, or garden trowel again, what she can do is bless her chores with a smile – not the least - but the best finishing touch of all." I love that. So true.

    I love your style of writing. I just finished reading your "Blackberry Inn" book yesterday, which was lovely and was just thinking that I hoped you posted something soon.

    P.S. I love how your husband said he was browsing "for both of us". How sweet

  14. What a perfectly wonderful post! Thank you for the reminder that small touches can go a long way! :-)

  15. Miss Karen,

    This is a delightful post! We are apartment dwellers and I struggle greatly with decorating it. I suppose I should change my thought process on this matter.

    I am homeschooling my son again this year and have brought out your books yet again. What a blessing! I will not stop requesting more books in your Carol series! :0)

    Have a nice week!

  16. It's been awhile since I've read your blog but always feel so encouraged after doing so. Thank you for this post - it washed over me - as a homeschooling military wife in the middle of a move right now. My girls are so excited to decorate a new bedroom and I am trying to stay positive and hope I can have some enthuiasm when in a few weeks I will be unpacking and trying to make it "homey" and homeschooling although in the back of your mind it is base housing and some day I would like to say we bought our first home. I am grateful for a roof over our heads.

    Thank you for all that you do, Paulette

  17. Putting these small touches on my home each day are what keep the home fires burning. I really know it's in these small things that really make my husband and children feel loved.

    I enjoyed reading that South Korea has a taste of Charlotte Mason. The book with it's creamy cover is very pretty.

    I could truly go on about this post in all it's mother-culture goodness. I saturate myself in each word you write like this because it speaks truth to womanhood so beautifully.


    I listened to my CD and it was a soothing bit of comfort to my hardworking homekeeping soul...The best part was the light humor you sprinkled upon it and I caught myself with a many smiles and once a laugh out loud.

    Thank You~


  18. Hello Karen,
    Popping in to say hello :-) Thought of you today as we begin our fall nature study. Such dreamy flowers you were able to buy! And the plates, what a delight! You must feel like you won the lottery with those...LOL!

  19. I too appreciate this post.
    And I love that your husband shopped for the both of you whilst you spoke to "your kind".

    I have so enjoyed my Moments with Mother Culture and agree with my dear friend, Amanda...I found myself smiling often and laughing out loud a time or two with your sweet and sincere humor!

    Love the plates!

    And especially the sunflowers.
    Ours are coming to an end, but the boys wanted grow a certain type that grew to be about 10 feet tall.
    Not very pretty for cutting, I must confess. But, clearly favored by our feathered friends.
    We are harvesting and saving for winter at this point.
    And creating a bird watching observatory outside a window.
    Complete with feeders, birdbath, and binoculars...
    So exciting.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  20. Subtle humor is the tricky part of writing for me. I am happy you caught it - placed inside this post to help my readers lighten up. We are a serious bunch - and for the all right reasons.
    Karen A.

  21. I just listened to Mother Culture again yesterday. This time on YouTube. I shared the CD you gave me with a mother in our homeschool group. I hope she will pass it on.
    God bless you!