Saturday, August 15, 2015

Born in a Story Garden

Born in a Story Garden 
Our daughter Sophia had her baby. She named her Eloise Victoria. Born 6 lb. 9 oz. she is a tiny baby still - a month later. (I announce it here for those who missed reading the comments added to the previous post.)

Eloise Victoria  - Great Grandma knitted the pink blanket

Baby Dear
Baby Dear
Victoria, her middle name, marks the victory of her birth - after a difficult pregnancy and high risk delivery. The name Eloise is in memory of illustrator, Eloise Wilkin, whose storybook pictures influenced Sophia's ideals more than I'd ever stopped to consider. I am seeing the fruit of this influence now. How - when a little girl - she collected the images of the pages I read aloud to her 30 years ago.

Into her imagination and she stored them - held them there for safe-keeping - dreams for her adult life - like a carefully stitched patchwork quilt is held in anticipation in a trousseau.

Sophia even decorates her house like the rooms pictured in Eloise Wilkin's illustrations.

The simplest of books can influence our lives with profundity. A picture book, for instance, has this power because it invites us to look closely at a portion of life. Simple it may be, yet it is never without an opinion.

Eloise Wilkin
Baby Dear - feeding time
Could Eloise Wilkin have foreseen that what  she drew in the 1960s would become a boost of needed encouragement to mothers half a century later - mothers of this multiple-screen age? This encouragement is especially appreciated for some of us who are having to re-invent motherhood - to form a picture of its tenderness and daily-patient-care in our minds. We welcome images of a gentle, cheerful and relational mothering.
Eloise Wilkin
Baby Dear - walking with our babies
Some of us are having to re-invent childhood, too. Those images of an old-fashioned childhood - when children were free to be playful, carefree children - and not be introduced to the adult world so soon. These happy childhood images can still be had through old books. They seem absent in the major media, unavailable in modern society - or in neighborhoods where, during the day, no one is at home.

Baby Dear - singing to our babies

And, too, we crave reinforcement toward upholding the value of homemaking. Therefore, what was drawn as a mirror of home-life and childhood in the 1960s is being tapped into by today's busy mothers who secretly desire a career at home. If you are looking for a picture book with a worldview that celebrates the traditional family Baby Dear will be a welcome resource. It is included in the Golden Book collection, Eloise Wilkin StoriesWe Help Mommy can be found in the collection also.

little girl's dress in the 1960s
Yours Truly, 1963
A Resemblance 
we help mommy
When my mother handed me an old Kodak slide taken in my girlhood, I couldn't help notice how my outfit resembles those worn on the pages of Eloise Wilkin's We Help Mommy - puffed sleeves and all. At first I thought: What an uncanny coincidence.  On second thought I realized: Why should there be anything strange about it? I am a child of the 1960s and this photo is proof that little girls really did dress in a white blouse and red skirt-jumper for playtime - in the days when Eloise Wilkin drew her pictures.

Books That Pamper my Opinions
As stories influences our lives, the flip-side is also true. An author's lifestyle often finds its way into her writing. Diaries, in particular, disclose what the writer is moved to jot down.
garden diary with water colors

The same week my daughter emailed me some new photographs of her tiny Eloise I had The Painted Garden  open at my summer leisure. It is the diary of the gardener Mary Woodin.

In this book I can walk down Mary Woodin's garden path. Among her brief notes of sowing and harvest, blooms and fruits, birds and butterflies, are selections she uncovered from other gardener's diaries - mostly those from the 19th century. I am amazed at how skillfully she uses her watercolor brush to beautifully portray what is alive and growing in her garden. If you are looking for nature diary inspiration you will find it here.

flowers in water color

With my book open to the month of August I see a quote from Mrs. C. W. Earle's  Pot Pourri From A Surrey Garden, 1887.

"Of all the months in the year this is the one in which the keenest amateur can best afford to leave home, and if I do not go away, it is the one I can best spare to my gardener for his holiday."

Immediately following comes a sweet surprise. Mary Woodin writes:

A bit of a lull in the garden - an opportune time to give birth! Reuben Charles entered the world safely in the midday heat. He has quickly become accustomed to being my garden companion - his pram [baby carriage] neatly balancing my drawing board, sketching stool, and the jam-jars for water. Parked under a tree he happily applies himself to the subtleties of cedar, oak, or ash. Or sleeps.

I love babies, summer sunshine, and flowers. I love books and the snapshots they give us. I don't mind reading books by those who have a different worldview than I have. I can find them interesting.
I can't help, however, to prefer books that pamper by own opinions. Have you found this to be true of yourself, too?

Thank you
For you convenience I linked to Amazon: Eloise Wilkin Stories and also The Painted Garden.

Recently, Dean headed out for the post office with his arms full of boxes. Therefore, I want to give you an extra thank-you here. To tell you that I very much appreciate your purchases of Parents' Review, the Lavender Strawberry Kit and the Mother Culture CD this summer. I hope each brings its own form of uplifting sparkle to you..

This month, at a blog friend's prompting, I hosted a luncheon in my keeping room for some home teaching mothers. I fussed over the preparations for a week beforehand with Dean's help, even buying two new plates to add to my Butterfly Garden set. When the day came, sitting at the table, chatting in the company of kindred spirits, it ended up to be a mini vacation for me - without leaving home. I hope we can do it again, Ladies.

I talked about children's chores in the post: We Help Mommy.

Rosey-cheeked and Resourceful is a blog article that explores the sadly missing phenomenon of safe neighborhood-play. In the days of neighborhood play attention deficit was at an all time low.

Thanks for letting me share this bundle of news, memories, books and articles with you.

Karen Andreola

Post Script
Oh. I've been meaning to tell you. Between posts, from time to time, I give articles to The Old Schoolhouse magazine to help spread abroad the good news of Miss Charlotte Mason's practical philosophy. Here are two links to TOS that relate to today's subjects.

A Nature Notebook 

The Power of a Picture Book


  1. Congratulations to you and your daughter! She is beautiful!! I love the picture you shared of yourself and the illustration from " We Help Mommy". That is just precious! I recently purchased "Little Mommy" for my daughter. It is a Golden Book, but by Sharon Kane. It is similar to the Eloise Wilkin books, and very sweet! It is wonderful to consider how these stories can influence the lives of our children. I know that the books my mother read to me definitely had an impact on who I am today.

  2. Lovely, dainty baby girl! Such bright eyes and tiny toes. I do love babies. <3
    Eloise Wilkins' stories have been favorites of mine since I was a little, tiny girl. My mom loved them first. The book about Daddies was a particular favorite. The illustrations are so lovely. I bought the collection you show for myself when my children were too old for it (somehow I was not!).
    Is -The Painted Garden- anything like Miss Holden's -Country Diary- ?

  3. She is so sweet! Congratulations!

    Thank you for sending the Strawberry kit so promptly. It is a beautiful kit and my youngest will make some treasured gifts from it.

    Be well in every way :)

  4. A pleasure to hear from you, Ladies.

    Yes, I see the sweet old books on Amazon near "Eloise Wilkin Stories" and am very happy these kinds of books are still available today. "We Help Daddy" was not kept in print by Golden Books probably because Dad smokes a pipe in it. But it is also a favorite of mine.

    "The Painted Garden" has a modern feel to it. The water color style seems to be done in a free-hand fashion, without any out-lining at all. It is specifically about Mary's personal garden, rather than what is found on a country walk. It has less writing in it than Miss Holden's "Country Diary " But it is worth looking into, perhaps within the library system. My copy was a gift to me.

    I'm glad to know that my Lavender Strawberry Kit is creating some anticipation. I enjoy the fragrance that greets my nose when I fill an order. I keep the lavender flowers in a seal tight container in my attic office/sewing room. When an order is placed I scoop the flower buds into their bag with the ribbon. It brightens my day. Thank you for sharing. - Karen A.

  5. I read the Eloise Wilkins books to my children too. I keep my eyes open for them at thrift stores. They are a boost to a mother's heart and much needed in today's culture. Thanks for sharing a picture of your precious grandchild. I look forward to the day I have that special blessing.

  6. Dear Karen:
    Congratulations on the birth of your precious new grandchild -
    dear little Eloise Victoria is beautiful - what sweet eyes! Aren't babies such a blessing? God is so good and I trust Sophia and all her little family are doing well. Peace to you all.
    I loved the photo of little you on your red bike in your red pinafore -so sweet and you look so happy.
    Thank you for sharing.

  7. What a beautiful baby! I have always loved Eloise Wilkins and I have a little collection of her books. However, I have never examined why I was drawn to her work... Thank you for the links at the bottom of your post!

  8. What a cute baby! Congratulations to your family. I had two high risk pregnancies and I remember the relief whe each baby was born full term and healthy. I hadn't read this when I wrote today's blog post on my blog. Likeminded writing. -:)

  9. This post was a delight to read and look at. Congratulations on your new tiny granddaughter! I loved reading and thinking about Sophia decorating her home in Eloise Wilkin style. God bless!

  10. Such a beautiful post. Eloise VIctoria is so precious. I loved looking at the Eloise Wilkins pictures and the one of you on your bicycle. I, too, gravitate to books about simpler days. As a child I loved pioneer stories and the books about Gone Away Lake. I realized some time ago that they were what gave me my love of "old things". What a blessing to grow up reading, or being read,
    lovely, gentle, inspiring books.
    Dianne L

  11. What a wondrous, sweet, blessing (after such a tense time) ♥.
    I'm going to share this post with my 13yr old daughter, a one time prem and an Eloise Wilkin appreciator.
    Eloise Wilkin's - and Tasha Tudor's - illustrations remain favourites from her early childhood.

  12. Karen, I remember meeting in your home--The Stone Cottage in Elkton, was it?--(too) many years ago with a group of home educating mamas to discuss various "educational" topics...and books, of course. :) What lovely times. I'm sure your friends were blessed by their time at your home for luncheon!
    And I LOVE Eloise Wilkins!

    Linda Murphy

  13. Oh, I remember reading "Gone Away Lake" aloud. Seeing your mention makes me want to read it again.

    Linda, I recall those days with fondness. I can hear our girl's giggling. My, that was 20 years ago.

    It is fun to read all your comments, Ladies. Karen A.

  14. Oh, this is a delightful post from beginning to end! I will try to keep my comments concise, but I think I could sit and chat with you for a long time about each topic!

    First of all, warm congratulations on the safe arrival of your sweet granddaughter Eloise! She is a beautiful little thing! I know how relieved you all must be. Those months of a difficult pregnancy can be so, so long.

    I also have a heart for the illustrations of Eloise Wilkin. I, too, have blogged about her books and art, and I have a lovely collection of Little Golden books on my shelf. Some I have found while antiquing, some were given to me by friends who know my love for EW, all are treasured. (I even have a copy of We Help Daddy, pipe and all. ~wink~) One of my favorites is A Child's Garden of Verses. R. L. Stevenson's poems will always bring Eloise Wilkin's scenes to my mind. They are inseparable to me. My other favorte is Baby Dear. I actually had the Baby Dear doll when I was a little girl. One night, she fell out of my bed and I cried out to my parents. My dad stumbled in and picked up another doll and handed her to me in the dark. "That's not Baby Dear!" I wailed, and my poor dad had to find the real thing in the middle of the night.

    I feel so blessed to have been one of the ladies who was invited to lunch! Your home is gorgeous! But the real treat was your beautiful, gentle spirit and the fellowship of like-minded ladies.

    So much for being concise...

  15. Dear Karen,

    Thank you for the sweet post. Congratulations on your beautiful, new granddaughter. What a darling photo of her!

    I too love to read picture books with old fashioned family ideas. When my daughter was little, I purposely looked for books like that so that I could read books to her with which she could identify. Our lifestyle has always been quite different from our neighbors and friends in this suburban area. I thought it might do her some good to see that we were not the only family whose mother did not work, who canned food or baked bread, prayed as a family, and who liked taking a walk or reading a book more than playing a video game on the latest gadget. Turns out, it meant so much to me, too, to find a kindred spirit in those books! Quite encouraging!

    Hope you enjoy your new granddaughter! Hope her big brothers are delighted with her, too!

    God bless,
    Denise Sullivan

  16. Karen,

    Congratulations on your beautiful granddaughter, Eloise Victoria. She is just lovely with the big purple flower in her hair, and her pink and lacy dress. How special to have a handmade blanket from Great Grandma.

    I, too, love the illustrations by Eloise Wilkin. I see familiar books in your photo. You must be glad to have chosen her books to share with your children, seeing how they have influenced Sophia. It shows the care we must take in choosing books and “entertainment” to share in our homes. We just finished watching Captivated, as recommended by you in an earlier post. It is definitely worth watching and heeding.

    The photo of you on your bicycle brings back fond memories for me. I, too, wore fancy dress – puffy sleeves and all; mine never so puffy as Anne Shirley, though.

    I enjoy reading Country Diary, so I may have to add Painted Garden to my collection.

    Oh, how wonderful it must have been to be at your home visiting with other kindred spirits. I will come just short of saying I am jealous.:)

    Neighborhood play is very much missed today. I have wonderful memories of playing out-of-doors with my friends. It is a sad state we are in today, and I agree with you, one of the reasons for increased ADD.

    I enjoyed both your TOS articles. Miss Rumphius is a favorite, stored away at present for, should I say, grandchildren. One day. We also have Leif the Lucky in our library. Books over television – anytime.

    Thank you for another beautiful blog post. I so look forward to them.


  17. We Help Mommy is a great joy to me. Our bedrooms look a lot like the pictures in that book!


  18. Congratulations on your granddaughter! I too love this illustrator! I had these little books when I was growing up and bought them for my little girl too!

  19. What a beautiful grandbaby you have. I love her name too! I am also a fan of Eloise Wilkins. I often feel I was born in the wrong era and long for the old fashioned values of yesteryear. I can only pray our country will begin to embrace them again. Moms staying home to raise children. Reading to them, loving on them, sharing the word of God with them. Your post is a lovely tribute to a wonderful illustrator and a new chapter in your family's lives. Blessings to you all!

  20. Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful granddaughter Eloise Victoria. Happy that Sophia is doing fine. The books by Eloise Wilkins are an inspiration to all children generation after generation. Thank You for sharing.
    God Bless you and your family
    Marilyn and Marion

  21. Your granddaughter is precious - may you have many sweet times together! After reading your post, I took out my collection of Little Golden Books with pictures by Eloise Wilkin, which I've had for many years. They are simply wonderful and bring back fond memories of when our children were little ones!

  22. Miss Eloise is quite popular, isn't she? :-)
    I am reading the first "season" of Pocketful of Pinecones to my younger boys (7, 9 and 11) in anticipation of the first day of school. Years back I read it to the older three (now 18, 16 and 14) and I caught them playing the "Uncle Bob's Barn" scene with their Little People farmhouse and barn. :-) I have been meaning to share that with you for ages.

  23. I always like to hear when children play "make-believe" with their toys from something that is being read aloud to them. I never stopped to think it that this would actually take place one day with something I had written. How fun.

  24. Your new granddaughter is a living dollbaby! As I saw her name I thought of Eloise Wilkins because I take pleasure in her books still too.
    I am glad you took your friend's advice and opened your home to some home teaching mothers. The torch you have continued to keep ignited for homeschooling mothers( and families) is widely needed today, perhaps more than ever before, if I can be allowed to even make such a general statement. (Because it was critcally needed back in the 1990's too). I press on with homeschooling 26 years from the onset; your writings encourage me.

  25. Congratulations to your family on the arrival of beautiful Eloise.

  26. Hi Karen,

    I just wanted to tell you I enjoy your writing so much. I just finished rereading A Pocketful of Pinecones as a bit of a retreat and refresher before I start another year of homeschooling.

    I wanted to ask you about your thoughts and experience in homeschooling the jr. high/high school years..... we are entering this new phase and I'm finding it a bit challenging to picture what the Charlotte Mason method would look like in the older years. Wondering if maybe you would consider writing a post about what it looked like for your family? I would appreciate your insight so much!

    Thanks for all your writing. OH, and I bought the Eloise Wilkin book for my girls ;)

  27. When I think of Eloise Wilkin, I think of Sharon Kane too as the first reader mentioned. We also have "Little Mommy" and my four year old requests this each night.

    Congratulations to your family!

    She is a doll of a little girl and I enjoyed the story so, behind her name;-)

  28. I read the Eloise Wilkin books to my children, as well. Loved them so much! And I had a bicycle just like yours (although I don't think I had the red jumper with puffed sleeves). Because of your post, I now know what a "keeping room" is (had to ask Google). Out here on the West Coast, we don't have colonial-era houses, so that wasn't a term I'd ever heard before. Love it!

  29. Oh what joy! Congratulations to your family and Sophia's family on the precious addition of Eloise Victoria!! Darling. I, as a mother to boys only, would love to hear about the impressions of Eloise's older brothers. Also, I love the soft pastel highlighting of quotes in your post. Kudos to Nigel!!