Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Raspberry Ruffles

Raspberry Ruffles
     The Man-of-the-House returned from running errands. He walked into the kitchen and carefully placed his bags on the farm table. “I just saw someone out front - picking our wild berries,” he spoke to the Lady-of-the-House. Familiar gestures were in gear. One arm waved in the direction of the mailbox.

vegetable centerpiece

    “She can pick what she likes. She’s welcome to it. I prefer the cultured varieties. No chance of poison ivy, thorn pricks - snake, spider, tick, or bee bites.”

     He corrected her. “The picker is a him.”

wild raspberries

     “Really? Interesting. Perhaps he’s picking for a wife or mother. A real gentleman.  Or . . . he likes berries as much as you do.” Connected to her smile was an eyebrow slightly raised. It was the eye on him. The other was on unpacking the bags. 

     Leaving that last remark alone the Man-of-the-House announced, “These are from the farm stand by-the-way. The zucchini looks good.”

     “It does. So does the butternut squash. Nice and fresh. Thank you.” Then, reaching into the last bag, she exclaimed, “Ooo, raspberries,” in slow melodious tones.  

     “Yeah” was the solitary note. But a knowing glance was exchanged. A hankering for raspberries is something they share in common, although, one doesn’t often put a hankering into words – at least not out-loud.  

Raspberry Jam
     Childhood memories are embedded in the taste buds of the Lady-of-the-House. Mom fixed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches routinely with grape. Raspberry was a once-a-year experience. On vacation at the seashore Dad drove out to an ordinary-looking-enough-house, a location mysteriously revealed to him by word-of-mouth, and brought home freshly made doughnuts – for one of the family’s breakfasts. The young girl can still see the grease spot on the brown bag Dad held in his grasp. Other than that gala event they never ate doughnuts.

     Overhearing grown-up gossip in the kitchen, she learned that the white powdered doughnuts were made by a beach-tanned baker who let his reputation go to his head but never his surfer’s waistline. He was generous with his filling of either rich custard (that Mom could testify he was boast-worthy of) or raspberry jam. The Lady-of-the-House has vivid memories of choosing the jam. She wandered out the screen-door and ate the summer holiday confection in private, in little bites, making it last as long as she could – a feat of accomplishment for any growing girl.  

raspberry cake

Raspberry Cake
     For the hankering of the Man-of-the-House his Lady made a cake. A warm summer memory of raspberry doughnuts hovered over her as she buttered and floured, mixed and measured. She spread fresh raspberries over two thirds of the batter in the pan, then spooned the remaining batter over the top to almost cover the raspberries. The cake came out but went back in the oven to bake several minutes longer because of its added moistness. It didn’t rise as well as she would have liked but the flavor of that mysterious baker’s jam-filled doughnut was captured.

raspberry cake cooking on rack

     The Man-of-the-House and his lady could not go away this year but they have learned to stop and take brief vacation-interludes at home. Enjoying the pleasant breezes of a remarkably mild summer they vacationed in a chair, each with a slice of raspberry cake served on pretty china. 

Raspberry Ruffles
knitted ruffles

Knitting Lingo

     While the Man-of-the-House puttered around in his own way, the Lady-of-the-House picked up her knitting needles - also a kind of brief vacation. A small project in the Fall 2011 issue of Love of Knitting magazine aroused the cuteness-factor in her and launched an attempt at something new – ruffles - in this case Raspberry Ruffles.

knitting a diaper cover

     The size 2 bloomers-with-back-interest is knit flat, top-down, front-to-back.

     Gold yarn is shown on the magazine page but she used up remnants in her stash – which is what a small project is good for.
     The crowded stitches inside the ruffle can be picked-up easily with a crochet hook, sliding the accumulated stitches off the straight end of the hook and onto a knitting needle. Here you can see the loops of the purl rows ready to be picked up for the ruffle.

     The ribbing at the leg has some yarn-overs for a lacy look. Elastic is in the waistband. 

     Into Grandmother’s Someday Box it goes . . . or until an invitation to the next baby shower.

knitted diaper cover with pink ruffles

     It is okay to look back at the good memories. The faithful also look forward. The American poet John Greenleaf Whittier puts this well:

“I dimly guess, from blessings known, of greater out of sight.”

a slice of raspberry cake that takes like a jam-filled doughnut

Hope you are enjoying the last weeks of warm summer breezes.
Karen Andreola

Monday, August 19, 2013

Flower Power

Flower Power 

     Emma keeps a large informal vegetable garden inside a rickety picket fence. Some vegetables are planted in rows outside the garden fence. Many, however are tucked away in raised beds among the herbs and flowers. I find this style of garden relaxing. It’s a bit wild somehow. A seemingly random mixture of herbs, flowers and vegetables appears at first glance to be self-seeded, springing up quite on its own. I know, however, that Emma’s casual supervision over her plants is actually a skill that is acquired by considerable experience – a great many hours spent in peaceful contemplation of her garden. Pocketfulof Pinecones page 183

     Two years ago I received a letter from a friend and pulled a seed packet out of the envelope. The flower seeds were a gift. She wrote to sprinkle the seeds directly, in autumn, on some soft earth. Cover lightly.

A Contented Toad
A Contented Toad by the Back Door

     I found a spot in the front garden and did exactly that. In spring they sprouted. The leafy stems grew several inches high. They remained happy that way, all last summer, without flowering. 

     In winter they withered. That’s okay. I knew that Sweet William is a biannual. It blooms where it is seeded – the second year.

Sweet Williams in Full Bloog
Sweet Williams in Full Bloom

     Another long winter passed. In springtime the leafy stems grew double in height. They bloomed more beautifully than I ever imagined. I’ve been able to do so little gardening this year, therefore I was thankful for the timing of this little patch of loveliness.

     Nature is full of wonder but can also be irksome. Our many rain showers threatened my patch. The Sweet Williams drooped, soaked and buffeted by repeated downpours. I hadn’t thought them tall enough to stake.  

Rain Shower out the front door
A Rain Shower as Viewed from the Front Door

     “Oh, no,” I said to the Man-of-the-House when we got out of the car in our hooded raincoats and walked closer to the house. “Look at my flowers! And the forecast is calling for more rain.” The Man-of-the-House saw the arched-over patch. It was arched to the ground. Not being a man of few words he usually has something to say. I was expecting something. But he was speechless. I could tell, however, by his tightened brow that his sympathy was genuine.  

Frequent Rains Invite Toadstools
 “Where are you going,” he said to my back when I stomped (and splashed) away in the spongy wet grass.  

    “To get the clippers,” I said without turning around.

Sweet William flowers hot pink
One Hot Pink Sweet William is Eye-Catching

     I cut some flowers and brought them inside out of the rain. They drooped dolefully in a vase. But in the morning I saw hope was not in vain, for the Sweet Williams had straightened their stems overnight. A phrase from the 1970s came to mind: Flower Power. Anyway, I was pleased with my pink-petal bouquet. The morning sun was bright, the sky blue, and I was uplifted by a moment of Mother Culture.

Colonial Wing Chair in the parlor

     The rest of the Sweet Williams I left untouched anticipating they would go to seed. A few finger taps to a dry flower-head releases black seeds. A fancy paper bag, I saved from a gift shop purchase, could be used to make seed-packets, it crossed my mind - to slip seeds into my letters. Thus the cycle of life continues.

Flower Seeds homemade seed packet
Homemade Seed Packet of Sweet Williams
     Curious, I opened Kate Greenaway's Language of Flowers to look up the meaning of Sweet William. “Gallantry” it stated. “Hmm, that’s suitable,” I thought. The language of flowers is only folklore but I could use a reminder to be brave, spirited, cheerfully self-sacrificing – even nobly chivalrous – translated in feminine terms, that is.  

Amish Harvest of Hay
An Amish Neighbor's Harvest of Hay

     There is a pressing need in my life to practice gallantry. In every Christian life there is struggle, the requirement of long-suffering, the call to be of service and put self aside. There can be pain in the struggle - and even anguish. Yet our Lord Jesus bears all our sorrows. He fills our hearts with the peace of heaven when we place our trust in Him. 

    Nature has tempests but a harvest of ripened fruit is gathered (in time and with trouble) by the Sweet Williams of the world.   

Until Next Time,
Karen Andreola

Sweet Williams in a Vase

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Well-Brought-Up Children

Well-Brought-Up Children  

      A while back I purchased a print by the illustrator Tasha Tudor. It could be reminiscent of Tasha Tudor’s early schooling, although I had read she didn’t like school.

      Whether it is a quaint little schoolroom or a sprawling brick building, at the mention of the word education most of us see a classroom. We see a chalk board, rows of desks with bored or bewildered children sitting in them, red marks on papers, heavy textbooks with long lists of questions to answer, pop quizzes, and report cards.

Tasha Tudor - One-room schoolhouse and children
      Is this what education is all about?

      I was greatly relieved to find that this is not essentially what education is all about. Miss Charlotte Mason had a refreshingly different perspective. She liked to use the phrase bringing up to express her educational ideas.

Tasha Tudor - One-room schoolhouse and children

     It was in researching an old article written by Miss Mason’s biographer, Essex Cholmondeley, a woman who knew Miss Mason personally and was devotedly familiar with her life’s work, that I uncovered a sparkling gem. It is an easy-to-remember triplet. This triplet became a motto for our home learning years. It was one of the most helpful outlooks I’d ever come across. Seeing education as consisting of three easy-to-remember opportunities may help you maneuver through the maze of today’s homeschool world – a world that is more complicated than the simple, grassroots world that it was in the early 1980s.  

     For well-brought-up children aim to give them each day:
Someone-something to love,
Something to do,
Something to think about.

Victorian girl painting portrait of her dolls - Carlton Alfred Smith
Carlton Alfred Smith (1853-1945)

Someone-Something to Love
     The child is a person. He is not enlightened by means of an overabundance of multiple-choice tests but rather by people in his life whom he comes to know, admire, and love. We are educated by our relationships: our family, our friendships, and by our intimacies. Think of how the actions of someone you admire influences your behavior. Similarly, think of how a child’s interest is sparked by a hobby he loves, and to which he devotes his time and trouble. There are opportunities to love and serve in every home. 
    Do you like the character Jane Bennet of Pride and Prejudice? I do. Her patient, generous heart and lady-like character is especially noteworthy in chapter 19.  Here is where I recently encountered a small detail in the story that resembles our familiar triplet. Voila.
“ . . . Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, with their four children, did at length appear at Longbourn. The children, two girls of six and eight years old, and two younger boys, were to be left under the particular care of their cousin Jane, who was the general favorite, and whose steady sense and sweetness of temper exactly adapted her for attending to them in every way – teaching them, playing with them, and loving them.”      

Something to Do 

Little Joe from Bonanza
     Step into the kitchen of a homeschool family at six o’clock in the evening and you will probably find a child clearing the table, doing dishes, or sweeping the floor, while Mother washes Baby’s hands, face and highchair. I chuckled at something Erma Bomback said about children and chores. She believed that if you asked a child why he thought his parents had children he would say it was because they couldn’t do their own dishes.

     Chores build confidence and competence. They can even be a kind of togetherness where many hands make light work.  

     When children complain, “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do,” they may seek first to be amused. But sitting passively for extended periods in front of a screen is not really a worthwhile thing to do. A child can be guided in meaningful tasks of recreation and service. Such things “to do” might be:

  Showing Little Brother how to blow bubbles

  Listening to Little Sister read aloud or teaching her how to “jump in” at jump rope

  Writing a play to put on for family members or giving a puppet show

  Practicing a song on a musical instrument to play at the old folk’s home or church

  Peeling vegetables for soup or salad

  Planning or tending a garden of perennial flowers

  Working with wood or leather

  Sewing doll clothes, quilting, learning to knit a mitten

  Building a model Roman villa, a pyramid, a castle

  Making a kite from a kit and flying it

  Kneading bread dough

     A phrase that had carried with it a satisfying joy to this mother’s heart was, “Mom, look what I made.”

Rainbow Bread
Our Grandson is holding Rainbow Bread

Something to Think About

     Something to think about is one of the most important parts of living the educational life. It is appreciating what other people have to tell us in their books, their thoughts, and their jokes. It is noticing beauty in music, paintings, or buildings. It is observing country seasons, sights and sounds, trees, insects, birds, and flowers.

     Children’s horizons need to be wider than their workbooks.

     People who learn to use their minds are unlikely to get hooked on long hours of passive screen time. Young children’s minds are naturally curious. Minds close, however, when curiosity is “schooled out” by tedium, dry textbooks, or an overemphasis on grades and testing. Be encouraged. Children will regain an open mind when they are presented with ideas that are interesting, ideas that are inspiring. One example of this is giving children heroes in history, science, and religion. As you do, you will be giving your children something worthwhile to think about. Children willingly absorb inspiring ideas into the inner recesses of their personalities. This helps build character. Are the materials in your homeschool—the books, arts, audio CDs, activities, field trips and observations—interesting?

Victorian children reading -  Carlton Alfred Smith
Carlton Alfred Smith (1853-1945)

     Well-brought-up children are those who have gained the practical skills and spiritual power to live the life God has given them – including those given a handicapped life. To gain power to walk in the Spirit  - with power to choose the good and resist the evil - a child is trained by parents in loving, working, and thinking. 

     If you give your children someone/something to love, something to do, and something to think about, every day, you will be doing very very well. This is what education is all about.

     Passages are borrowed from A Charlotte Mason Companion chapter three.
     Photographs of the boys were taken by their mother, Sophia.

A Thank-You Note

     I wish to thank all of you who have shared your fondness for A Charlotte Mason Companion with friends in person or on your blog. I also extend my gratitude to those who have placed a favorable comment or review online of one of my books. I do not travel. I’m unable to meet and minister to my readers in person as I once did. Therefore, I’m always touched in meeting you through your kind notes. 

     Recently I was asked how to go about using Companion for a group study. (Hearing about my purple book being studied in a group setting puts sunshine in my day.) I recommend starting with the above triplet. Then, proceed through the chapters in any order that follows your fancy, leafing through to pick out topics that would address, firstly, those things that seem expedient – those things on the forefront of mothers’ minds, such as how to make application of living books and narration.


Feel free to share a “Something” you like to do.

Until next time,
Karen Andreola