Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Autumn Optimism

Autumn Optimism

     Crawling out of its hiding place into the sunshine a woolly bear posed itself on a pot of thyme just outside the kitchen door of the Lady-of-the-House. It came and went in early autumn, sunbathing regularly at this same spot. The Lady-of-the-House started thinking of it as her pet of the patio. She only disturbed it once to cradle it in her hand and watch it curl up into a ball of bristles. 

     Then she came into the house and opened to page 82 in Lessons at Blackberry Inn to refresh herself with the folklore of the Isabella Tiger moth. In its caterpillar stage it is said to have the ability to predict the weather.

     “As we walked I shared some New England folklore. . . . It is believed that the severity of winter can be predicted by the amount of black on the caterpillar. “If you see more black than brown on the woolly bear,” I told my children, “it will be a stormy winter. If the woolly bear is mostly brown, we can expect a mild winter.”

     A few weeks after observing her “mostly brown” optimistic caterpillar, the enormously expansive storm Sandy approached the east coast. The Lady-of-the-House was busy preparing and serving. She started by baking a big batch of molasses muffins and then kept her kitchen simmering and her washing machine spinning.

     For days all her thoughts were passing thoughts. Full of care she urgently focused on doing the “next thing.” At bedtime she found that she could concentrate on not one paragraph of her novel. She closed the book.

     The storm hit in the night. In nervous wakefulness she heard the wind roar in the trees and the rain pelt at the window glass. But in the morning little damage was found in the neighborhood. How very thankful she was. Calm was restored. But she couldn’t help thinking, “There might be something to the woolly bear’s ability to predict winter weather but when it comes to autumn it is far from the mark,” she nearly said out loud. 

     During the storm rigmarole, the Lady-of-the-House appreciated the autumn decorations out of the corner of her eye. And does so now.   

     What a funny crooked handle this brass candle pan has. It seems to have been made in haste or by an amateur. It is an antique find of the Man-of-the-House. He thinks it unpretentiously reflects the everyday wears of the everyday man at a time when electricity was unavailable for lighting hallways.

     Resting inside its pan is a tiny autumn ornament - a squirrel minutely cross-stitched on linen, a gift reflecting friendship afar.

     Also on the family room windowsill sits her newest pincushion. A circular sprig of faux autumn berries surrounds it. This gift to her was sewn from the wool fabric of a cast-off skirt purchased at a charity shop. Deft fingers turned it magically into a pumpkin. The leaves are to hold the needles so they won’t get lost inside the pincushion. Has this ever happened to you? 

     Potpourri lends its spiced autumn fragrance to the air. “Mmm, it smells good in here,” says the son of the Lady-of-the-House when he enters the room where his mother sits writing you on her laptop. She points to her bowl. He nods. She smiles.

     The Lady-of-the-House has a friend who is frugal in the most creative ways – ways that enable her to provide frugal niceties as well as frugal necessities for her family. The potpourri is a nicety from this friend who used resources close at hand, such as dried sage and bay leaves from the garden, orange peel, and spice balls made with cinnamon dough studded with cloves. How fun. 

     This hand-quilted square was pieced with naturally dyed cotton. It is a souvenir of a living history museum. A paper pinned to the back reads that that the brown came from acorns, the orange from madder, and the tan from tea. I think Blackberry Inn’s Dora would be charmed by its primitive handiwork.

     An antique wooden kneading bowl brightens the low shelf of the kitchen’s farm table with a faux harvest.

  Speaking of kneading, with evacuees staying over during the storm, the Lady-of-the-House prepared some comfort food. 

     She rolled out whole-wheat bread dough for cinnamon buns. 

     Conscientiously, she halves the quantity of brown sugar and butter listed lavishly in most recipes - using coconut oil in place of some of the butter. 

     Less “sticky” than most, they are still very much of a treat for the Man-of-the-House. 


     But one doesn’t need an approaching storm to make them.

     Thanks for stopping by,
     Karen Andreola



  1. Thank you for reminding me this morning of the beauty
    of simplicity. <3

  2. I'm so glad that you all fared well in the storm. I hope the winter is just as easy. I received your letter and will write you back directly. Have a blessed day!

  3. I love the home keeping of this post!

    Very nice find by Dean for the window candle. I like these kinds of treasures, too.

    Glad you weathered the storm just fine, thankfully our whole area did.

    Did your evacuees have damage when they returned home?


  4. How good to hear that all is well. Productive activity surely beats ineffective fretting every time!

    I have been making molasses cookies lately. The aroma is one of my very favorites.

    My family enjoys Monkey Bread. Sometimes I just sit back and watch to see how much butter and sugar they will use. I look forward to making Monkey Bread with them over the Christmas break.

    Happy Thanksgiving!


  5. I love this post! It all looks so cozy.

    When we have a storm approaching or anything that makes me aprehensive like that, I tend to become busy with things to do.

    It calms me down and when done in the kitchen... it WAS comfort to the family.

    Love your writing, as always.

  6. Thank you Ladies.

    I'm so glad you enjoyed a cozy visit here today. Before your visit I made sure I dust-mopped well under the farm table for the photograph as this is where our dust bunnies congregate when I'm not looking.

    My parents are settled back into their home a block from the beach. The sand dunes were a buffer of protection. But in the surrounding towns, of little to no dunes, they see destruction.

    Brenda, I appreciated your practical preparedness tips.

    Good evening,
    Karen A.

  7. I love the pace of your life. Quiet, calm, creative, beautiful. Thank you for sharing glimpses of it with us. And glad to hear your parents are safe.

  8. It is good to hear that you survived the storm Karen. I just loved this post. I sense of peace and well-being enveloped me as I read. Thank you for bring such joy to your readers!

    Shirley Ann

  9. There is something about baking when the weather is stormy. It just creates such a cozy atmosphere. And soothes rattled nerves.

    Glad to here your family came through the storm safely. It's been a while since I've heard the wind howl so much!

    I love the pincushion--so much nicer than the pincushion tomato sold at every discount store. I have many needles lost in mine, I believe.

    Have a blessed Thanksgiving.


  10. Thanks for having us over! It's always such a treat! :)

  11. Thank you for visiting me at Thinking About Home, and for leaving your sweet words. I must confess to being a little starstruck that you would happen by my little place in Blogland. After all, you are a famous author whose books I have read (several times!) and a homeschool pioneer! (You may have noticed that one of your books is included in a photo in my blog header.) :D

    I have visited here many times to enjoy your words of wisdom! I am inspired by your thoughts on learning (I am still homeschooling my youngest, 11), your lovely crafting, your grandchildren photos (I am a Gran to eight), and your gorgeous home! I'll have to pop in the comments section from time to time, now that we have "met"!

    And I think that a batch of homemeade cinnamon rolls sounds like perfect storm food!

  12. Mmm, I see I'm not the only one whose needles disappear inside her pincushions.

    Cheryl, I stopped by for a visit through Deanna's Creekside Cottage. I was tickled to see a copy of "A Charlotte Mason Companion" on your banner beside your cheery white farm sink. It is always a pleasant surprise to meet someone who has read one of my books.

    Thank you, Ladies, for sharing.
    Karen A.

  13. So glad you survived the storm safely! We don't know this kind of weather condition and I hardly can imagine how one feels.
    Your home looks so pretty and cozy and inspiring. The dust bunnies brought a smile to my face - thank you for being so honest!

  14. Mrs. Andreola, I want to thank you and tell you how much I love your book, a Charlotte Mason Companion. I am a home educated eighteen year old young lady. I asked for your book for my Birthday. My Mother and I love it, as does my younger sister. I don't know how we never heard of Charlotte Mason before in our home educating, but it ministered to our hearts. The Victorian drawings, the warm tone of your writing, it feels like an old friend. You feel like an old friend after reading your book. Many Blessings, Faith

  15. So lovely! Your cross-stitch squirrel makes me want to break out my floss and pattern book!