Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Author's Chatterbox (with excerpts and pictures)

Author’s Chatterbox
(with excerpts and pictures)

     My story character, Carol writes:

 “After only several days of picking, the kitchen was overrun with blackberries. We had enough to make dozens of jars of blackberry jam. We only stopped our industrious boiling and bottling when Michael returned from the general store with news that it was out of jelly jars.”  Pocketful of Pinecones page 215

     We are surrounded by woods and the kind of plants that grow along what the filed guide says, are “woodland edges,” Wild blackberries are one such plant. This thorn bush is in the rose family.

     I took a photograph of some blackberries opposite our drive awhile back. (Rubus allengheniensis) Unlike the British blackberries on the autumn Brambly Hedge plate Pennsylvania blackberries ripen at the height of summer.

     I do not make my own blackberry jam. I buy it. 

     Hence the empty jam jar filled with garden flowers and weeds from our and woodland edges. 

     A favorite weed in the vase is Queen Anne’s lace or wild carrot. (Daucus carota) It is growing particularly tall this year. 

     Carol writes:

“Emily and I gathered quantities of Queen Anne’s lace. . . .  When I returned I looked up the poem . . . I think it will make a lovely addition to their Notebooks. I’ll have Emily copy one verse a day into her book.” Pocketful of Pinecones pages 224-225

     Another plant that grows along the woodland edges and wherever the smallest amount of dabbled sunlight reaches the leaf litter, is the poisonous pokeweed. (Phytolacca americana)

     Carol writes:

“ ‘Ooh, look pokeberries. They’re plump and ripe and will make just the pink I need,’ Dora said. . . . ‘I’ve collected goldenrod for yellow and sassafras root bark for brown. Whenever I go for walks, I keep my eyes open for plant dyes.’  . . .
As one knitter to another [Carol] asked, “Do you have a sweater planned?’
‘Yes, one with a pale yellow background and a Fair Isle border pattern of pink roses and green leaves.’ ”  Lessons of Blackberry Inn page 68

     Dora was sort-of describing a child-size sweater that I had on my knitting needles around the time I wrote the story. It is in my Grandmother’s Someday Box while I wait for a granddaughter. The pink rows of fleur-de-lis closely resemble the color of crushed pokeberries – a natural dye that Dora plans to use on some of her spun wool.

     I crushed some of our pokeberries onto a rag. Voila- Dora’s pink. 

     Unlike my sweater, Dora plans to knit a true Fair Isle pattern around the yoke for herself in stockingette stitch. I contemporized this traditional style with Noro and knit the yoke in garter stitch. I understand why Dora dreamed up these colors. I think they work beautifully together.

     My sweater is for cool spring weather in 100% wool and has wooden buttons. In spring, when Dora’s practical farmer husband Bob, sees his wife’s finished sweater, I believe he will not secretly be of the opinion that their one sheep is a boarder that doesn’t earn its keep. Even if the sheep is more of a pet he is happy to give it room in the barn for sweet, soft-spoken, hardworking Dora who is adjusting to life in the country. 

     Something else grows prolifically in the village of Appleton – sweet corn – and we Americans welcome the once-a-year experience of eating it with atrocious table manners - between two hands.

    Carol writes:

“The sweet corn was juicy, too, and we must have looked a sight with our large juicy bites of both tomatoes and corn and our buttery fingers.” Lessons at Blackberry Inn page 15

     With allergies to corn in the house I rarely cook it. I omit it from all recipes. Dean mustn’t eat it but urged me this summer to buy myself some local corn at a roadside stand. When I boiled, buttered, and salted it, I thought about my characters at the end of the summer doing the same. I thoroughly enjoyed it – on the cob - in the American way. 

     My lunch here features a quinoa burger made with red quinoa – something my characters would find strange, indeed. I flavor them with cumin, soy sauce, brewers yeast, chopped onion and parsley (or was it cilantro?) Anyway, my menfolk will eat these burgers as an alternative to meat once in a while when the cook camouflages the quinoa in a bun. This lunch is high in protein and if it weren’t for the butter, would be vegan. 

     Carol writes:

“[Emma’s bedroom] overlooks the kitchen garden, which is so close to the house that the scent of herbs wafts in through her windows whenever there is a sturdy breeze. . . .
‘Come in, dear,’ [Emma] said peeking over her reading glasses at me. She was sitting at the desk of her secretary near the window with a letter in her hand.”  Lessons at Blackberry Inn page 32.

   At my request our son Nigel drew the Victorian oak secretary pictured on page 33. We purchased it in Tennessee in 1988 (a year before he was born). In Maryland it charmed the kitchen and stored dishes. In Oregon and Maine it stood in the corner of the family room. 

     In the last house we rented in Pennsylvania the secretary was a bedroom fixture filled with books. Its warped door and rounded glass had been well padded for transport more times than I can count comfortably, but it has survived unbroken. Phew. In this house our linen closet has a wide air vent running through it, therefore, this time, the secretary has come in handy to store bathroom sundries and seashells. One of the drawers is filled with my “good intension” pink sponge hair rollers of different sizes. But this fact certainly detracts from the atmosphere I was trying to create in Blackberry Inn. Some things are best left to a reader’s romantic imagination.

     Carol writes:

 “Mr. Fortesquie’s recitations and anecdotes made the whole company lighthearted. He did quiet down some, however, to more slowly consume his blueberry pie – seemingly to savor every mouthful. Pocketful of Pinecones page 219


     The blueberry boy is wearing the (Vaccinium angustifolium) cap I knit for him. Ending my post with the cuteness factor is something his Grandma couldn’t resist. 

     Thanks for sitting in and joining me for a chat,

     Karen Andreola

(click any image to enlarge)

To see more fruit caps you may visit the October 21, 2010 post, titled "Yarn & Heartstrings." This little fellow wasn't born yet but his brother took part. 


  1. Pocketful of Pinecones will forever be one of my favorite books! Have read and reread. And reread again.


  2. I thoroughly enjoyed Pocketful of was a delightful read. I love the sweet sweater that you used the Noro yarn on....great colors for sure. And that adorable blue hat only pales to the sweetie who is wearing it! Have a wonderful end to your week. When did you live in Maryland? That's where I am!

  3. Lovely blog post and your grandson looks adorable in his blueberry knit cap!


  4. Ah Karen, I've been re-reading Pocketful of Pinecones for a couple of weeks now. It is a start of the school year favorite for me, even though my students are now away for college studies. It still inspires me.

    Your blueberry grand-boy is adorable.


  5. Just put some Spotted Touch Me Not's in an old honey jar with a charming shape & label...LOVE your little grandberry...;)He reminds me of the book Peter in Blueberry Land ? by Elsa Beskow.

    Blessings to you, Karen!

  6. The cuteness factor - love that! I can hear his irresistible giggle. Cute hat, too, by the way.

  7. What a lovely post. love the little cardigan and what cute little fellow, your blueberry boy. I have the your books but haven't read it yet. For some reason I've been saving them up. Can't imagine why. So I'm off to have a little quiet afternoon read for a few minutes.
    Blessings Gail

  8. Beautiful post, beautiful flowers, and beautiful knitting. Thank you for commenting recently at Sew Chic. I was surprised to see your comment because I just re-read your book (CM Companion) this past early summer. I didn't know you had a blog, but now that I know, I will be back. :)

  9. Love that book...I should probably read it every fall. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy:). I want to make those quinoa burgers! I've been using quinoa a ton (haven't used the red yet) and have been going meatless several days a week. BTW...have you ever tried Braggs Liquid Aminos as a substitute for soy sauce? It's wonderful!!! I can get it at my little grocery store in town. Nice chatting:)

  10. oh my he is just so sweet! i was just contemplating knitting that hat for my grandson-he has the same color eyes and i thought it would look so darling on him:-)

  11. I would love reading your book...its sounds wonderful. I cook Poke Salad as it grows wild here in Texas,but only when it is a young plant..I boil it several times and drain it before eating it...its quite tasty...I think so anyway :) Your precious little grandchild is adorable in his sweet little cap you have made him.I really enjoyed this post...thank you so much for sharing....blessings

  12. I read Pocketful of Pinecones when I was homeschooling and then bought the sequel for my daughter when it came out.

    Instead of having it sent directly to here, I had it sent to my home so I could read it first.

    Such beautiful books!

    LOVE that smile on the baby. There is nothing like grandchildren to warm the heart.

  13. Thank you for the chat, Ladies.

    We lived in Elkton, MD in the later half of the 1990s and have fond memories of our friendships there. Our eldest daughter and her family live in MD near Baltimore.

    Not seeing Bragg's in any of my "clean food" recipe books I took no initiative to cook with it otherwise. So my bottle sat and became food waste - sorry to say. Should I try again?

    In our used (1965) copy of "Boy Scout Handbook" the leaves of the pokeweed are suggested for salad and pictured along with two pages of other wild greens. My field guide assures me that only the root and berries are poisonous.

    I find myself, too, longing for some sweet sentiment, some holy truth, or some light "warm & fuzzy" especially after the news headlines reach my ears or the bills pile up.

    Until next time,
    Karen A.

  14. I just wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed reading Pocket Full of Pinecones and Lessons at Blackberry Inn. I've read both twice. It's almost like a vacation to a different time. And the little guy is just too cute.

  15. Oh! I loved your book too. Your secretary is very like the one that housed my doll collection growing up. My parents have it near their front door now, with Mom's sheep collection in it. I think they're rather brave to have it there with 14 grandchildren!

  16. What a cute grandson you have! Lovely post, Karen. Thank you.

  17. I liked Nigel's drawings of your secretary in the book. How nice to see a photo of it!
    The lovely quotes and photos make me want to read your beautiful books again. I think autumn and the beginning of school is the right time to get inspired again.

  18. Glad I popped over here to read your latest post. I've got a busy week with my first born son's wedding on Saturday. It was nice to slow down and enjoy the color's and inspiration in your thoughts and handiwork.

  19. Hi Karen,
    I love the little cardigan you've knitted. I think you have done another one in gray with cute little acorn buttons too. Did you follow a pattern or is it your own design?
    Could you share it?
    The little "blueberry boy" is just adorable.:-)

  20. Upon reading this I immediately went to my bookshelf and pulled Pocketful of Pinecones off the shelf to put with my stack of reading materials. I will revisit Carol and her family once again and enjoy every single moment of it!

    Quinoa burgers...I have only eaten quinoa as a salad food. Yet another whetting of the appetite in this space.

    And who could not mention the irresistible "blueberry" boy. I love sharing your joy over your grandson.


  21. Dear Ladies,
    I enjoyed reading the paper notes I received in the mail today and these generous comments. So glad my stories are appreciated.

    I abandoned the yoke pattern I used on the few sweaters you see on my blog because it didn't transfer well for larger or smaller sizes. It only seemed to work well for one size. Anyway I recently bought the "Scandinavian Cardigan" pattern found at "Cottage Creations Sweater Patterns" that is supposed to work for size 2 up to large adult in worsted weight yarn.

    Two ways of knitting it are explained. The first is "Purly Mae" - back and forth in rows. The second is "Rounder" on circular needles with a "skeet" cut up the front when done. Perhaps one day I'll have the nerve to do this. A multi-color pattern is supplied for the yoke but self-striping could be substituted if preferred.

    I'd like to attempt to knit one for myself because I've a ten-year-old yoke cardigan which I save for "best." And I've recently adopted the idea that this style lends a certain sartorial balance to those who are pear shaped.

    Until later,
    Karen A.

  22. Hi Karen,
    Thank you for directing me to the Scandinavian Cardigan. I think it's just what I am looking for. :-)

  23. Yes! A yoke like that does lend itself to the pear shape. I know that, because I am an upside-down pear shape, and it does NOT lend itself to my shape! I have a beautiful navy blue, white, and red cardigan with just such a yoke. I look like a grizzly bear when I wear it. Isn't it nice that there are patterns and styles that lend themselves to our various shapes and sizes?!


  24. Hi Karen!

    I love your Brambly Hedge plate!! I was introduced to Brambly Hedge not to long ago and love it!!

    I love your cabinet! It is so beautiful!!

    Your sweater is gorgeous!! I can't wait to try a sweater soon.

    Your grandson is absolutely adorable!

    Love, Heather

  25. I just loved Pocketful of Pinecones and this post.