Tuesday, February 2, 2016

By Hand

By Han

Slowly, with sure-footed steps, and a soft cloth, I work my way up the stairway, to smooth away the dust. The nifty-looking brush vacuum attachment can't do what the lowly piece of flannel can, in the hand of the homemaker, around the fancy cut cylindrical spooks. I try not to look down as I dust. It can be dizzying. Because the staircase is the only fancy part of our simple house I don't mind the maintenance required of the ornamental carpentry, now and then.

I'm in the middle of reading Little Women during these dark winter evenings. Isn't it a wonderful feeling to read a book and feel a kinship with its writer? It brightens up a dull winter. It might be a silly spot - but silly or not - I was sharing a cozy feeling with Miss Alcott when I read the part describing Meg's homemaking.  

   "I . . . doubt if any young matron ever began life with so rich a supply of dusters, holders, and piece-bags; for Beth made enough to last till the silver wedding came round, and invented three different kinds of dishcloths for the express service of the bridal china.
     People who hire all these things done for them never know what they lose; for the homeliest tasks get beautified if loving hands do them, and Meg found so many proofs of this, that everything in her small nest, from the kitchen roller to the silver vase on her parlor table, was eloquent of home love and tender forethought." 
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, chap.24

White snow (and we've had more than our fair share this year) also beautifully brightens an otherwise dull winter. Color, too brings brightness. Dean brought home flowers. The center of the kitchen table is the most practical place for a bouquet in our house. It gives me the best and most-oft view of them. I was hand-basting a quilt at the kitchen table, taking advantage of the low rays of winter sunlight as it entered the French doors, when I noticed that the fabric of my little quilt matched those of the red bouquet. (In the plum border are vines of tiny red wild strawberries.)

I chose the Snowball quilt block, an appropriate pattern for this time of year. Inside each snowball I quilted a large heart by hand with lavender thread. Snowflake-like orbs seem to be floating on the light fabric in the manner of one of those water-filled globes that recreate a scenic snowfall.

On the subject of snow I came across this photograph of my children taken in 1998 in Rockland, Maine. They were happy with the result of their snowman-building, shaping it carefully by hand, in honor of Raymond Briggs magical fairy tale "The Snowman"a film produced in England that my children had enjoyed. The film's music is marvelous. Do older children bother to take part in the pleasure of building a snowman these days? I'm glad my children were squares.

While Dean was shoveling the deep snow away from the kitchen door, I baked his favorite treat - doughnuts. We prefer baked doughnuts over deep-fried. Greasing the doughnut baking pans with coconut oil gives them plenty of tasty "crisp."  Just out of the oven I give them a sprinkle of butterscotch sugar.

January saw the 90th birthday of a friend of mine and older-woman-in-the-Lord, Mrs. M. I remembered the winter in Appleton, Maine when she turned 75 and I made her a birthday card from a rubber stamp of a Tasha Tudor illustration. I made one again (partly as a forget-me-not) in appreciation for her loving-kindness to me during our years in Maine. I miss her.

During the big snow we had a house guest stranded here. Better to be stuck here during her travels than risk the highways on her way to Washington, D.C. She saw my green sewing roll-up, where I keep needles, thimble dots, etc. It's always laying around somewhere. She was tickled by it. "Would you like one?" I asked. She did. And so I made her a brown one from an unfinished roll-up being ignored in my sewing room. All I needed to do was hand-sew the binding and add a button. (The roll up is actually secured by a snap).

Dean and I hadn't any grandchildren when we last entertained this guest, so I showed her some photographs. Here is one I share with you. Baby is 6 months old already. This is a photo of her at 5 months wearing the cardigan I knit her. A skilled and thoughtful blog friend knit Baby the lacy bonnet, a pattern of her own design. Very pretty.

It's been a quiet winter.

Keeping in touch,
Karen Andreola


  1. Your winter sounds very cozy! How do you make baked doughnuts? They sound quite wonderful.

    1. Nice to have your visit. I purchased two doughnut-baking-pans through the mail so I can make 12 doughnuts. On the packaging is a recipe (that I tweaked by adding some sour cream in place of milk). They bake like muffins. An easy way to fill the doughnut shaped spaces is by putting the batter in a plastic bag, snipping a corner of the bag, and squeezing it as you would a pastry bag. Yum.

  2. You are so talented. I always think of you as a Renaissance woman. :)

    My oldest grandchild turns 14 today. I can hardly believe it, it seems like yesterday she was born. We share a love of cooking and baking so she always receives a new cookbook for her birthday.

    Always enjoy seeing a new post from you.

    1. I am touched by your "Renaissance" compliment. Thank you, Brenda. My eldest grandchild is almost the age that my son was in the snowman photo (above.) How the years fly. Sharing a love of cooking is a good connection, indeed.

  3. Hello Karen,
    I am woefully behind on my FB messages, so sorry I haven't answered you yet. Been a bit under the weather and was so glad to see a post from you pop up while I rest. We, too, like baked donuts-less fattening;-) But, what is butterscotch sugar? I usually read Little Women around this time of year also, but I am making my way through the Miss Read books. I find them a comforting read. Also, have you seen Edwardian Farm? I don't know how I missed this one, but I am thoroughly enjoying it! It's nice to knit and watch an episode or two. Your little quilt is very pretty-how I love a handmade runner on my table. Well, wishing you well. I go in for my trial procedure on Monday the 8th. Keep me in your prayers if you will for success!

    1. I found the butterscotch sugar in the King Arthur catalog. Cinnamon doesn't agree with the Man-of-the-House. Nor does any spice.
      Yes, the domestic conflict in Miss Read's village is resolved with light humor. I like how this makes for good bedtime reading. My dear, can you believe it? Last night when the room was dark and my eyes tightly closed for sleep, I remembered to pray for you - that your upcoming procedure will be expertly performed and give you splendid relief from your chronic pain. I will pray again, Suzanne and be watchful on your Facebook.

  4. This is lovely as always, Karen! Thank you for some winter-y cheer. Amy

  5. Hello, Karen!

    Hooray for square kids! They find and bring such joy.

    We too are having a quiet winter. A quiet January is my favorite kind of January. We had 8 inches of snow in that snowstorm you mentioned. It was perfectly lovely. Our Lenten Roses had just begun to bloom when the snow came. I was grateful to see them emerge alive and well. Today is has been 71 degrees here. Typically unpredictable.

    I have never tried making doughnuts. Yours look delicious. I made corn, rice, and sausage soupe while my husband shoveled snow.

    Happy February!

  6. Your sweet little granddaughter is gorgeous!! (Hard to believe that she is six months old! Wasn't she just a newborn when we met last week? Or was that last month? Or last summer?!)

    I love this post and the reminder that simple domestic tasks can be elevated by our love for our families and by doing all things "as unto the Lord." Thank you, Karen and Louisa! :)

  7. What a lovely,simple post. What a darling granddaughter,perfect in every way.Thank you Karen for always bringing sunshine into our day.Looking into butterscotch sugar,my dear husbands favorite flavoring.My children were snowmen makers as well,now the grands are.Our grandson made a snowman with his Daddy this weekend while we were visiting.Blesses our hearts to see the simple activities still enjoyed.Bless you Karen, Dawn E. Brown ps..I purchased a copy of Prairie Children and Their Quilts.After seeing your little quilt,which is so attractive,I must get started.

  8. What you share is such a delight! Adds a bit of sunshine to what can become dreary winter days!! Always enjoy hearing and seeing what you and your loved ones are up to - blessing upon blessing to you and yours -

  9. I can't remember the last time I read Little Women, I will have to get that off the bookcase and dust that off! ~We love baked donuts as well I make gluten free ones ~Enjoy Heather

  10. What a nice post! I love the stamp card, and the baby is beautiful. Thank you for the nice note you wrote to my mother in Inman, SC, who purchased the Parent's Review issues for me this Christmas. I am enjoying reading each one slowly, bit by bit. I've always been "afraid" to do picture study for fear of not knowing how, but we've started with Mary Cassatt and are enriched by it. Many thanks! It's always fun to read a new Mother Culture post.

  11. I am curious about your sewing roll-up. Did you make it from a pattern or are you selling them? I always enjoy reading your blog, it reminds me of simpler times when the focus was on the home and nurturing the family.

    1. Nice to hear from you, Ladies.

      I made my sewing roll up from a pattern in a back issue of "Early American Life Magazine." A similar one is in Kathleen Tracy's quilt book, "Remembering Adelia" pg 63. A simple square needle case pattern can probably be found easily but there is one in "American Doll Quilts" pg 46.

      I thought I'd meet up with others who had "square" children, too.

      I remember displaying Mary Cassatt years back - a favorite.

  12. Karen, I was thrilled to see your post pop up in my mailbox today. You always bring a smile to my face. I know what you mean about dusting by hand. There is something about seeing the wood shine after a good dusting that brings a smile to my face. We have started hand washing dishes again since our dishwasher doesn't seem to do a very good job of cleaning. I have decided that I do not want another one. Standing at the sink washing while my girls dry brings back wonderful memories of my mother, grandmother, and aunts. There is lots of conversation and laughter around the sink. Little Women is one of my favorite books. Currently, I am reading Miss Read Village Diary. It makes for relaxing bedtime reading.

    Your little quilt is lovely. I have my fabric out and waiting for me. Now to find the time.

    Your granddaughter is precious and the cardigan you made for her is beautiful. Her little hat is sweet.

    We are enjoying spring-like weather this winter, but last year we had a good snow and the children (at that time 16, 15, and 11) and I went out and made a very large, for Texas, snowman. He lasted several days. That doesn't happen often here, so when it does, we try to take advantage of the opportunity.

    Take care, Karen. I hope you have a wonderful week.

  13. We love reading your posts. They make you feel like you are experiencing the goings on along with you as you write. The quilts are beautiful. Thank You for sharing your family photos with your readers.
    Marion and Family

  14. Your doughnut recipe sounds delicious! And your ways of "hibernating" seem very cozy to me.
    There is also a picture book of the "Snowman" with music. I used it once for our christmas recital. Some children read the story aloud, others played the songs and we had the pretty illustrations beamed on the wall.

  15. Oh Karen, thank you for all the uplifting, colorful writing ... I was wondering about your little granddaughter's sweater, the pattern and the yarn. I would so love to try this for new little granddaughter due very soon. And I have a yard of flannel in my fabric stash I'm going to put to good use now. Housework can be 'love' if we do it as such ... it's often overwhelming because I'm slow, but God knows. Blessed Lent already next week! With love, Mary Lou

  16. Lovely card that you made from the Tasha Tudor stamp. I'll have to try making that Butterscotch sugar.

  17. Eloise is adorable! I loved putting my baby girls in bonnets. And those toes!
    Meg was always my favorite of the sisters, maybe because I am the eldest. I had the quote "The homeliest tasks get beautified..." etc, on an index card on the fridge when I was a young mom. :-)
    Your quilt is lovely. Circles are a challenge.
    I always enjoy your posts, Karen. Thank you.

  18. I love that quote from "Little Women". The Tasha Tudor stamp is so sweet! What a blessing to have had Mrs. M. while you were in Maine. We all need Godly older women in our lives. I hope you do not get blasted again with snow this weekend.


  19. I just loved everything about this post! Your new quilt is beautiful, the colors you have chosen coordinate perfectly. Your granddaughter looks so sweet in her little hand knit bonnet and sweater!!! Your use of the Tasha Tudor stamp is lovely! My mom has a print of that picture hanging in her kitchen. It is one of my favorites. Oh, and I grew up watching "The Snowman" too. The music from "The Snowman" is beautiful.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely peek into your winter!

  20. Karen!! What a treat to see your beautiful wee granddaughter adorned with my bonnet! Warms my heart and puts a huge smile on my face. :) Thank you for sharing...such a treat to see a finished project being worn and enjoyed. Likewise, I enjoy the handstitched needle case you sent my way and keep it tucked in my knitting bag where it comes in handy.

    We're fans of The Snowman and would be out building a snowman if only enough would accumulate to do so!

    Sweet to read of your elder sister-in-the-Lord. Both my grandmothers lived to be in their mid-90s, and I pray I live that long (and that I make good use of the years along the way!). What a blessing she must be to you.

    It's a balmy 63 degrees here today, so I'm off to sit in the sun on the front porch with a glass of tea on ice and a good book. The kids and I are reading Robin Hood for our literature co-op which meets this Wednesday...I'll miss these homeschooling years when they draw to a close. My Daniel graduates this May and AnnaLynn will be a junior next year. Sigh. A happy sigh, but a sigh nonetheless.

    xo Lisa

    1. So true about the "sighing" after the kids are all grown up. I still miss it - especially those earlier years when Karen's book, The Charlotte Mason Companion was my "Homeschool Bible". . . after the real Bible, of course:). My daughters graduated 2008 and 2010, so it has been awhile. But now come grandchildren. My youngest, Cadence Renae, was sitting in that same little seat that Karen's granddaughter is seen in this photo. Cadence is two and a half months - such a peanut. She looks just like her Mommy, my daughter, Rachel Renae. Blessings in your last couple years; years to be treasured! Nancy

  21. Dear Karen,

    Thank you for stopping by and wishing my Evangeline a happy birthday; your winter looks like ours, nice and homey! We've been working on handicrafts (mostly for our family of dolls) and Valentine's this week.

    Homemade donuts are such a treat; I did not know they had pans for them!