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