Monday, December 16, 2013

Traditions Take Time

Traditions Take Time

Taking Time to Create
     Gingerbread-brown is her new name for it – the color of the pullover. Even after spraying it with water and laying it flat the cables are still springy. The Lady-of-House made the neck roomy.

     Little children have large heads and some don’t like to be stuck in the dark, inside a tight pullover, even for a moment. “Help,” she could hear her two-year-old grandson whimper while trying to dress himself. He can be screech-volume-loud when kicking a ball around, or when his brother accidentally knocks his blocks over, but in asking for help he manages to lower his voice to a piteous, impish plea. It works like a charm when there are females present. Is he conscious of the power of his cuteness?

sweater, n. :  garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.            Ambrose Bierce

knitted cable pullover

     Years back, at the culmination of a complicated Christmas, the Lady-of-the-House slouched on the sofa with a long sigh. Gifts were unwrapped that morning, stomachs were full with Christmas dinner, dishes were washed . . . and she was relaxing. It was a gray, foggy afternoon. Heavy raindrops had washed away all the pretty white snow. The woodstove heated the room to a drowsy-comfort.  “Now I can hook my sheep,” the Lady-of-the-House said. She opened the Harrisville kit, nestled the round-edged hook in the palm of her hand, and pulled her first piece of wool into a little loop. “I think I’m going to like this craft,” she prophesized.

rug hooked pillow

     It had been the busiest and most exuberant Christmas season ever. Children’s music rehearsals and recitals, church ministry, parties, shopping, caroling, cookie baking, hospitality, filled the schedule to the brim. Now a lull was welcome. She pulled loops all that week, adding extra yarn to the border of the design, hooking round and round as the canvas would allow.


     That tiny rug rested, here and there in closets - for an embarrassing amount of years. Only recently had it occurred to the Lady-of-the-House what to do with it. The notion entered her mind after inspecting her woven-in-American tablecloth which had covered many a holiday dinner table - and dinners in between. “This has seen better days. It’s in a permanent state of stains,” she pronounced. “I can’t give it away. But I can’t throw it away, either. Hmm, I’ll cut away its stain-free borders for fabric and make a pillow with my little sheep in the middle of it,” she recovered brightly. And so she did, this season.

tin chandelier

Taking Time to Wander
     This year Christmas is uncomplicated. The Lady-of-the-House chose to forego a tall tree. What a quiet joy to see so many of the family ornaments now decorating her married daughters’ homes. She also passed along a stack of Christmas books, saving a portion of for her own basket. She’s been told that similar reading-baskets bedeck the homes of other self-taught people. This tradition of enrichment places cheer, interest, and inspiration in easy reach.    

     “I remember this,” she exclaimed to her then already teenage children while sorting through dusty boxes in a ramshackle used-book-shop in Owl’s Head, Maine, some years back. Thus, Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry published in 1963, was purchased for old-times-sake. It is a 5-minute story with black and white pen-drawings shaded only in green. This cheery fairytale has a Goldilocks-and-the-Three-Bears-feel-to-it in its theme of size and reads in rhyme like the poem, The Night Before Christmas.  

     Mr. Willowby is well-to-do as evidenced by his house fronted with stately columns. His ceilings are lofty but not quite high enough to fit the over-sized Christmas tree. Baxter, the butler, climbs up a ladder and chops off the top. He presents the piece to the upstairs maid. She sets it on a table in her attic room but to make it fit she snips off the top and throws it out. The story reduces down in scale to the size and circumstances of each owner as families of people and woodland creatures find one piece of Mr. Willowby’s tree smaller than the next and make it part of their Christmas festivities. The last page is the cutest.  

     In the Maine-days, her sister mailed the Lady-of-the-House this stylized St. Nicholas, obviously sympathizing with life in the back woods. His cross-country ski poles are tipped with a touch of glitter. The basket on his back is filled with fruit and gift boxes. Where had the Lady-of-the-House seen a similar St. Nicholas? “Ah, that’s right,” she thought, “in Efner Tudor Home’s The Christmas Cat, illustrated by Tasha Tudor.” 

a backwoodsman Santa

     In the story a tall man with a brown beard, dressed like a lumberjack, is cruising through the snow into a clearing in the woods, balancing on a large bobsled that is pulled by two heavy draft horses. The man has an owl on his shoulder. He is a friend to the forest creatures and stops to feed those that have followed the sound of the horses’ bells. Among them is a gray cat shivering in the cold. On Christmas morning the cat appears in the house of two little boys where it curls up on a pillow by the fireside. But who is the generous man? Shh, don’t tell anyone, but he looks a little like another bearded fellow in the story.
     Tasha Tudor’s watercolor scenes inside and outside the house, transport the nostalgic-prone to simpler times.

Taking Time to Wonder
     With the woods bare and white, a few brave Pennsylvania birds can be spotted now and again by those who are accustomed to peering out of windows at different times of the day. The Man-of-the-House and his Lady abruptly stopped their lunch preparations. They were startled by a bird’s song. It sounded so loud and clear that they momentarily wondered if the bird were inside the house. His Lady traced the source to the fireplace. “It must be perched on the chimney,” she said. Two verses were shouted from the housetop. That was all. But they were beautiful, sweet verses.

bird watching from the parlor

Taking Time to Worship
     The chimney-top bird affirmed their efforts toward hospitality and “friendship evangelism” this season, bringing the chorus of a Christmas song to mind.

Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born

     Wishing you traditions of enrichment,
Karen Andreola

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Learning by Heart

Learning by Heart

     Some of you know that I’ve been escaping into the Cotswold village of Fairacre periodically for nearly twenty years. I like reading about the British-schoolmistress-days of Miss Read during the 1950s. Ambling along a page in Changes in Fairacre I took note of her opinion and smiled.

throwing snowballs

     “After a short session of modeling [in clay] I embarked on two short poems by Robert Louis Stevenson. I am a great believer in stuffing young children’s heads with worthwhile verse which they will have safely stored away for the rest of their lives.”

vintage Christmas bulbs

     One of the lovely things about home education is the picking up of interesting ideas, beautiful thoughts, and sentiments that a teacher commits to memory while she is leading her children to do so. I followed Miss Charlotte Mason’s advice in Home Education in 1989 and chose some verses for memory work. Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses appealed to me and I thought they would appeal to my little girls, too. But it wasn’t work, really. I read a poem aloud one morning. Later, while I was preparing supper I read it again. And again when the baby was in his crib for the night and my little girls were in the bath. It only took a couple of minutes. It met their ears like a commercial jingle on the radio might, mingling into the atmosphere of the house.

     The next morning, between penmanship and arithmetic, I spoke the first four lines of the poem. I didn’t need to read it. Apparently, I had learned it by heart myself – effortlessly. I repeated it again at supper and again at bedtime. On the third day I recited it, then asked my girls to take turns reciting it. This they did with no trouble.

“Half a dozen repetitions should give children possession. . .” C.M.

     "It is possible that the disengaged mind of the child is free to take [in] . . . beautiful images clothed in beautiful words. . . . Let the child lie fallow till he is six, and then, in this matter of memorizing . . . attempt only a little, and let the poems the child learns be simple and within the range of his own thought and imagination. At the same time, when there is so much noble poetry within a child’s compass, [it is] a pity that she should be allowed to learn twaddle.” C.M.

     Following this plan we learned the twelve lines of the poem, “The Swing” by heart.

     Years later when I was sitting together with my son on the sofa (the baby reached age 6) reading “The Swing” out of our picture book, it dawned on me that the lines could have been written as if following the path of a long rope swing - one line of the poem swinging forward – the next line swinging backward, in rhythmic pendulum fashion. We were renting a house in Oregon that had a tall sturdy oak tree at the edge of the lawn. A rope swing was attached to a branch that was high off the ground. I don’t know how the previous residents (a retired couple) managed to attach the rope to such a high branch. It made a wonderfully long ride. The rider thrillingly soured through the air (almost dangerously so) with the breeze in her hair, once she “got into the swing of it.”  

     I’ll probably always be fond of the poems by Robert Louis Stevenson. More than twenty years later, with only a little prodding, I can still recall most of the verses we learned by heart. I savor their simple expression of joy – and made them a part of my Mother Culture. If it were not for home education I wonder if I would ever have had such a “child’s garden of verses” in my soul – if I hadn’t embarked upon “stuffing the heads” of my young children with “worthwhile verse,” as Miss Read puts it. 

     “It is a delightful thing to have the memory stored with beautiful, comforting, and inspiring passages,” says Charlotte Mason. Of the Bible we read that in place of the “memory verse” we are advised to learn a longer piece to absorb the surrounding context.

     If anyone asks, “What shall I learn?" the answer is, “Begin with what you sincerely like best, what you would most wish to remember." This time of year it could be the Christmas story in Scripture written by the apostle, physician and historian, St Luke – so treasured by many and most familiar to us in the King James - as spoken impromptu by Linus in the old TV special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” (Luke 2:8-14)

     In summer I took a series of breakfast times to refresh my memory and secure the Twenty-Third Psalm word-perfect before my scheduled lumbar puncture that the patient is wide-awake for. I anticipated the need for its security. When the day and hour arrived I clung to each line of precious truth like a toddler does a blanket, I can assure you.  
     On a more serious vein, men have taken verses and literary passages committed to memory with them onto the battlefields of the world wars to recall them while they wait in the muddy trenches. 

     In the 19th century, Vernon Lushington, stirs his fellow adults onto a plan of self-education. 

     “Till he has fairy tried it, I suspect the reader does not know how much he would gain from committing to memory passages of real excellence; precisely because he does not know how much he overlooks in merely reading. Learn one true poem by heart, and see if you do not find it so. Beauty after beauty will reveal itself, in chosen phrase, or happy music, or noble suggestion otherwise undreamed of. It is like looking at one of nature’s wonders through a microscope.
     Again, how much in such a poem that you really did feel admirable and lovely on a first reading, passes away if you do not give it a further and much better reading. It passes away utterly, like a sweet sound, or an image on the lake, which the first breath of wind dispels. If you could only fix that image, as the photographers do theirs, so beautifully, so perfectly! You can. . . Learn it by heart, and it is yours forever!”

Sharing thoughts across the years and across the miles with you, 
toward the "Gentle Art of Learning."
Karen Andreola

To hear Linus' impromptu recitation click play button.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Saying Grace

Saying Grace

Faith is like a bird that feels dawn breaking and sings while it is still dark.
Scandinavian proverb

     In Pennsylvania, a November morning looks like nighttime. The Lady-of-the-House awoke early. The first thing to greet her consciousness was a bird singing . . . in the dark. One bird, braving the frosty night air was perched in a tree somewhere close by. The high note of its modest little tweet rang clear, resounding through a tightly closed window. The Lady-of-the-House parted the curtains. But it was too dim to see even a bright red cardinal, the bird she suspected it to be.

Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.

     This child’s grace at table, echoed in the mind of the Lady-of-the-House. She felt it. She thought about it. The simplicity of this grace taught in childhood is like a proverb, a “drop of ink . . . to make us think.” It sets the mind on higher thoughts. Such drops of ink - when heeded - are a blessing in the life of a teacher whose attitude, and gentle but firm underlining authority, are felt by the children she guides.

     The verse also brought a twinge of conviction to the Lady-of-the-House. It shed a soft light on her lack of everyday thankfulness. She wants to be faithful and have a heart that sings.

“Were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine?”

     “Alas, how often we are among the nine, the poor, pitiful souls who received everything and gave nothing, not even a word of thanks,” says Miss Charlotte Mason. We become dull to our blessings, are rushed on to do the next urgent thing, or are preoccupied with some fret of the minute, she tells us. She invites us to make thankfulness one of the habits of life – part of the atmosphere of our lives. See what many exclamations she uses on page 192 of Ourselves Vol. II. It is so unlike her. Miss Mason is not given to exaggeration.

     "How good is life, how joyous it is to go out of doors, even in the streets of a city! Surely a pleasant thing it is to see the sun! How good is health, even the small share of it allotted to the invalid! How good and congenial all the pleasant ways of home life, all family love and neighborly kindness, and the love of friends! How good it is to belong to a great country and share in all her interests and concerns! How good to belong to the world of men, aware that whatever concerns men, concerns us! How good are books and pictures and music! How delightful is knowledge! How good is the food we eat! How pleasant are the clothes we wear! How sweet is sleep, and how joyful is awaking!      Even an occasional thanksgiving . . . sweetens the rest of life for us. . .  We say grace for a kind look, or a beautiful poem, or a delightful book, quite as truly as for a good dinner – more so, indeed; for it is true of us also that man doth not live by bread alone."

Miss Mason continues further down the page:

     "Perhaps most of us fall on our knees and give thanks for special mercies that we have begged of our Father’s providing care – the restored health of one beloved, the removal of some cause of anxiety, the opening up of some opportunity that we have longed for. Such graces as these we give ungrudging thanks, and we do well; but the continual habit of thanksgiving is more:

Thou that has given so much to me,
Give one thing more – a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleases me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be,
Thy praise. *1          
                                George Herbert ”

*1 The Lady-of-the-House found and filled out the rest of the verse referenced on page 193

Explanation of Photographs

Feeding the Birds – by Johan Mari Henri ten Kate (1831-1910 Dutch painter)
Punched paper motto stitched for a married daughter in 2008, posing for the photograph on a bale of straw beside a yo-yo mat in autumn novelty prints – borrowed for this post.
Back of yo-yos up close.
Picket fence at Landis Valley.
Pieces of a cabled pullover in size 4 being knit in a November-brown color for a grandson.
Knitting a sleeve in-the-round is the way the Lady-of-the-House prefers to do it. It is her only change to a tried & true, traditional-style pattern of which she has gotten much practical use over the years (by Yankee Knitter Designs #22).  

From my house to yours,
Karen Andreola

Post Script
If you'd like to send a gift-wrapped Mother Culture CD to a friend in time for Christmas the order should be received here by December 14th. The friend's address can be placed in a note with your Pay Pal order or check to the PO Box. Thank you, Ladies. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Are You Crying Over Spilt Milk?

Are you crying over spilt milk? 
Encouragement for girls and grown-ups

     The petty conflicts and disappointments in a girl’s day can turn her peevish. It is best to learn before entering womanhood, not to be dramatic and cry over spilt milk. I do remember, however, a day of early motherhood, when I cried over spilt apple juice.

     The kitchen floor was shinny and clean. I stood with hands on hips surveying it with satisfaction. As I put the mop and bucket away a wave of fatigue swept over me. I knew it shouldn’t be ignored. My two-week-old baby was sleeping soundly. The little girls were decorating a cardboard box “house” with magic-markers. Around the corner was a small pile of laundered whites on the bed. I could get these folded and out of the way in no time, I thought. Then, I could take a brief mid-afternoon rest. The girls could fend for themselves for ten minutes. 

My little girls in the blue house on Battle Ave. Franklin, TN 1987 - 88

     And they did – almost. Very soon one sister with concern on her brow entered the bedroom reporting, “Mommy, the juice fell.”
     “I’m coming,” I said, warily. Standing in the same spot where I had only moments ago surveyed my nice clean floor, I was taken aback. The plastic bottle lay on its side in the middle of a widening puddle. Little stocking feet had distributed the juice to all corners of the room. I surmised that the full bottle had been too heavy for even the “big” sister to maneuver. 
     I put the mop back to work although I was beginning to feel wobbly. This time, buckets of extra rinses were required to set the sticky room to rights. With fatigue as my enemy I was emotionally frazzled. I dropped my head into my hands and cried. My little girls stared in surprise.
     Then the baby woke up. “Mommy, let’s play,” the girls urged, thinking, from their point-of-view, that the idea would cheer me up.
     “Okay,” I relented, not wishing to nip a kind gesture so fresh in the bud. “After I nurse the baby. Okay?”

     It did cheer me up, unexpectedly. I lay on the sofa, dressed and redressed a doll, making it talk to the delight of the children. That’s all it took. Well, not quite all – for I had made a mental note that we would have sandwiches, pickles and apples for supper.

“Sometimes, one of the greatest secrets to joyful homemaking is knowing when to quit.” Mrs. Sharon White, For the Love of Christian Homemaking

     Reading good fiction forms a sort of friendship. Perhaps this is because we are put in company with others, not too unlike ourselves, who live with conflict. Others have lived through spilt milk and worse, and have persevered. It helps to know that real girls have come through real conflict. The stories in the Daughters of the Faith Series by Wendy Lawton are based on the lives of real girls. Although meant for younger readers than myself (ages 9-13) these stories have been feeding my soul in a gentle way.

     At the start of Wendy Lawton’s chapters I was made familiar with the personality of her main character for whom I very soon found myself caring. Each teen-age girl lives in quite a different setting, yet each contributed spiritual encouragement to my life.
     Anita Dittman, who survives the Holocaust in Germany; blind Mary Bunyan who is a help to her father John Bunyan, a prisoner in England; and Pocahontas, a friend to John Smith in Jamestown, all placed a sparkle of hope in my heart. Yes deeds of faith - and the courage that comes by faith - do exist. Throughout history girls have stepped out of their comfort zones in their desire to please God and persevere. 

     My recent read is based on the life of 13-year-old Mary Chilton of the Mayflower. At the beginning of Almost Home Mary and her family are non-conformist immigrants living in Holland. Like the other English, they feel out-of-place and are put down for their beliefs. Mary helps her mother with daily chores and by sewing. Her delicate stitches contribute to the financial resources. Snatching an opportunity, it is all arranged for the family to quietly step onto the Mayflower in the autumn of 1620 to journey to the New World. Consequently, Mary feels displaced. She longs for a sense of belonging. An odd combination of pilgrims and sailors must get along aboard ship. The journey is a struggle in more ways than one. Patience, courage and physical stamina are required. On the Mayflower there is more spilt than milk.

Can you see what caught my eye in Historic Strasburg?

     Hours of research must have gone into each book. I am impressed at how seamlessly events are woven into a plot that carries the reader along. The reading level and topics are suitable for fifth grade up – or a fourth grader who devours books. In my judgment  - backed by our years of experience - these stories would lend themselves to the method of narration. No teacher’s guide is necessary but the school-minded will be happy to spy a glossary of terms.

     In most instances the events in Daughters of the Faith Series are true, although no one knows the actual words spoken by the main characters. An Epilogue supplies additional facts about each girl. In the story of young Harriet Tubman, for example, Harriet wonders about the Underground Railroad. Little did she know at the age she is in the story, that she would later make nineteen dangerous trips back to the south to lead more than 300 slaves to freedom.

Protect and Prepare

     What you will not find in this modern series is: peer-prominent pop-culture, thrilling boy-girl romance, vampires and other dark themes - all too readily available and targeted for the youngest of teens. Yikes. Rather, the stories in Daughters of the Faith Series, in a non-preachy way, support the guidance found on the pages of Beautiful Girlhood.
     Protect and Prepare – was a motto we followed while bringing up our daughters. They would have found encouragement in these stories when they were young. (I would have, too.) Am I the only one who has cried over spilt milk?

Keep up your Mother Culture,
Karen Andreola

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Best Cook in the Whole World

The Best Cook in the Whole World

     One pair of grandparents I was blessed to have, lived in the Italian neighborhood. Aunts, uncles, cousins lived up and down the street in walking distance to St. Mary’s Church. Some of the cousins still do. My grandmother was a little girl when she voyaged to America. Born in Naples, in the shadow of the Vesuvius, she was used to peasant food; what was grown in the garden, fished from the sea, or scavenged from the wild. Certain dishes aren’t anything you’d find on a restaurant menu but it is authentic Italian food, nonetheless.
Landis Valley

      A couple times a year my brother, sister and I would sleepover in the Italian neighborhood. Our parents dropped us off for the weekend. My grandmother fed us well. Some of the food she and my grandfather ate was different than what they served us. For instance, a shallow pan covered with snail shells baked in the oven after the chicken and potatoes were done. I remember spying something different on the kitchen counter. It was also something kept off the table. Curious, I got up to have a closer look and saw a rustic pie crust filled with oily onions. I asked, “Nanny, what’s this.”

  “Oh, you won’t like it,” she said with a wave of her hand – the same hand that seemed never to be without the limp ma-peen (little mop or dish cloth).

     “I want to try it.” I spoke up, privately giving myself credit for being so brave – although not brave enough to touch the subject of snails.  

     “Alright,” she said with a wink in her eye. She expected it would gross-me-out. It wasn’t company food, nor did it resemble anything normal like her mouth-watering spaghetti and meatballs.


     My grandmother cut me a slice. Just then, the odor of garlic wafted my way like a sort of warning of things to come. I ate cautiously, making sure I didn’t make a face. The texture was greasy, the flavor, pungent. It might have been the first time I had tasted anchovies. My grandmother sat and watched me eat. She was entertained and laughed. But she never asked what I thought of the pie. Therefore, I didn’t have to answer. I volunteered anyway. “Mmm, not bad,” I said. It may have sounded like a white lie but it wasn’t.   

slow food

     Peasant food was handed down to my grandmother from her mother, who was known in the neighborhood for keeping the largest vegetable garden – planted on the town’s vacant lot – a block away from the house. It was she who made my father trudge heavy buckets up to the large lot to water her long rows of asparagus, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, spinach, escarole, eggplant, onions, etc. It required many trips, back and forth. 

autumn vegetable garden in Pennsylvania
Autumn Vegetable Garden

     He was ordered to weed it, too, with his cousins, no matter how hot the sun was. Great-Grandma was bossy but she was also the most affectionate person my father knew. She did as much work in a day herself, as could be done in two. From her summer basement kitchen, she fed not only her own family, but all those who walked through the door besides, while regularly caring for the sick and aging of the parish, leaving meals from her garden’s bounty on back doorsteps.

primitive kitchen
Primitive Kitchen
     My father’s favorite dish of his grandmother’s was her layers of pan-fried eggplant baked in a casserole. He also ate bowls of pasta with beans and lentil soup with rib-sticking satisfaction. It was simple wholesome peasant food that was dirt-cheap but my father thought his grandmother was the best cook in the whole world.

slow food - mushroom egg pie with green onion
Filling the Pie

     Sometimes, I enter the kitchen and “brace myself.” I know I’ll be in there for some hours. I might cook double for sharing at a backdoor.  Or I’ll cook double to freeze for a rainy day. A popular egg-pie is quiche. Like most pies it freezes well. It’s a way to incorporate healthy vegetables. It’s a handsome dish, tasty enough for company, that can be made well ahead. And it even tastes better the next day. My version of peasant pie uses a generous portion of green onions and mushrooms pre-cooked in olive oil.

slow food
Out of the Oven

     While making this pie for a weekend breakfast, my mind wandered. Would any of my children or grandchildren tell tales about the home-cooked meals they ate in my kitchen – something normal like my spaghetti and meatballs? Perhaps one day I’ll hear, “Grandma, you’re the best cook in the whole world.” 

You know the moral of the story.

young dogwood tree in autumn


    I thought you could use a bit of encouragement, as November is the month when the enormous work of planning, cooking, serving and washing up after “that meal” rolls around again. 

     The Lord be with you, in the big things and in all the little things,
     Karen Andreola

orange autumn fabric yo-yos
There's a yo-yo for every season.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

When Interest Fades

When Interest Fades

We gather simple pleasures like daisies along the way. 
                                                               Louisa May Alcott

     As soon as the air took on the chill of autumn a certain squirrel took on the habit of hopping passed the window. The Lady-of-the-House couldn’t distinguish what it carried in its mouth. Sometimes the food was an untraditional green. Anyway, she was entertained as she washed the dishes.

     Nutritious nuts are buried by squirrels. Enthusiasm gets buried, too. This is understandable. Busy homemakers and home teachers hoard ideas for another time because the day’s demands are varied. The hours seem short.

     All is not lost, however. Enthusiasm can be revived. You can uncover enthusiasm where you left it.  Dig it up. Take a few bites. You can be, once again, fed by the kind of thing that once struck your fancy. 

     Recently, the Lady-of-the-House enjoyed making and sending a card to her son’s nurse. It was on her mind for a week. It isn’t often that she takes out the basket of rubber stamps. Once in a while she has a craving to color. And she likes to make cheery things. Such seeds to color must have been sown way back in her coloring-book days - again, in the early days of home teaching.

     Creative stamping eludes the Lady-of-the-House. Perhaps she lacks confidence for arrangements and trimmings. Anyway, she is happy enough with:  stamp and color.

     The stamp she chose depicts an autumn illustration by Tasha Tudor. She bought what the seller had, ten years ago in a shop in Maine – a small collection, actually. She is glad she splurged then, as stamps are less available now.

“[Laura] was knitting [Manly] a whole long-sleeved undershirt of fine, soft, Shetland wool yarn for a Christmas surprise. It was difficult to keep it hidden from him and get it finished . . .” Laura Ingalls Wilder, The First Four Years

     A faded interest in knitting left every needle untouched for most of the summer. Until . . . the Lady-of-the-House felt a chill in the air . . . and . . . she spied some yarn at Landis Valley. She swooned over all the colors, secretly. After making the painstaking decision, she chose two. The wool is sheared, dyed and spun locally.

     She knit a raspberry cap, a pair of socks and mittens - each from a separate pattern. Because she was able to use the same yarn it ended up making a set – a gift for a two-year-old.

     Has your enthusiasm been sleepy?  Perhaps an idea from a coffee table book out of the library - or the simple pleasure of a leafy, leisure stroll outdoors - for instance - might clear the air and awaken a personal interest.


     Easy-to-read-at-night, the Lady-of-the-House fed her soul with The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Have you read it? When she got to page 85 she scribbled down the knitting quote. Hope, persistence, hard work, and love “runneth over” its pages. 

Post Script - Knitting Lingo

      I doubled the size of the pattern’s bumps on the raspberry hat. In the heel of the sock I changed all the K2TogTBL to SSK. I prefer a SSK decrease. It gives a smoother appearance. I also continued the ribbing along the top of the sock for a more elastic fit. Did I do any tweaking to my trusty plain and oft-referred-to mitten pattern? Yes. I improvised with “little shells” edging. I couldn’t wait to try it on something so why not a cuff? I had to rip out the “little shells” and start over a couple of times before I was happy with it. Now I wish I had put this edging on the socks, too.
     The roses are from my daughter Yolanda's garden.

Hope you had a cheery visit,
Karen Andreola