To Amuse and Delight

Friday, September 25, 2009

Recycled Tablecloth

I’ve had this thrifted vintage tablecloth for many years. Rosebuds with bits of metallic gold tendrils, very sweet. I made these pants for my daughter out of it. The coolest thing is that the lace was already attatched to the cloth.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back to school

As you know the back to school season is here. As homeschoolers, “back to school” conjures up different images than the ones presented to us in the media or in the mall. It is refreshing that a new season of learning is upon us, new ideas to be introduced, new loves to be discovered. I recently read the book Laddie by Gene Stratton-Porter and I couldn’t agree more with this bit.

“Schoolhouses are made wrong. If they must be, they should be built in a woods pasture beside a stream, where you could wade, swim, and be comfortable in summer, and slide and skate in winter. The windows should be cut to the floor, and stand wide open, so the birds and butterflies could pass through. You ought to learn your geography by climbing a hill, walking through a valley, wading creeks, making islands in them, and promontories, capes, and peninsulas along the bank. You should do your arithmetic sitting under trees adding hickorynuts, subtracting walnuts, multiplying butternuts, and dividing hazelnuts. You could spell everything in sight and this would teach you the words that are really used in the world.”

Friday, September 11, 2009

Let Freedom Ring

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
       and a season for every activity under heaven:
  a time to be born and a time to die,
       a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
       a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
       a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
       a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
       a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
       a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
       a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

I was at a women’s prayer meeting, praying for our children, our country, when someone ran in with the news. A plane had crashed into one of the towers. We listened to the radio reporting the surreal information, we prayed, we listened and we prayed some more. Our husbands were down there, in the city. We would have no contanct with them for the next several hours. The city was “locked down”, which means no one can get in or get out. The train that my husband left on that morning could not return.

We each went home to be near our phones in case a husband should call. The phone lines were so jammed up no calls could get through to us. I waited. I prayed. I listened to the radio for updates. I appeared calm so my small daughter would not worry. The words from that REM song played over in my mind “it’s the end of the world as we know it”, but I was not feeling fine. I waited and waited and made a big pot of lentil soup. If my husband did come home he would be hungry and he may be bringing with him people who no longer had a home. Finally he did come home to us, Thank God. But so many others did not. As the days went by the communter parking lot became an eerie monument. Whenever we drove by it you could see all those cars whose drivers would never return to them. For each car a family was waiting. I have the same sick feeling in my stomach today as I remember those cars. So many cars. As more bodies were unearthed another image of cars was burned into my memory. Funeral processions, lines of cars everywhere, for weeks.

I recall also an unspoken bond with everyone I came into contact with, a bond of seeing this happen and still being alive. On that sept. 12th I was on line in a grocery store. The woman behind me had clearly just finally made her way back from the city. She was disheveled, she had on a rumpled business suit from the day before. She had a glazed faraway look in her eyes. As I was leaving I was taken aback by her small purchase, a bottle of water and an American flag.

(please note there is no meaning behind the drawing of the flag being backward. My 5 year old drew it today and she thinks it’s perfect)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tea and Memories

Each weekday that we are at home everything stops at 3:30 for a tea break. We sit down with a pot of tea and a little something to nibble on. I read from whatever book we happen to be into or something about the current season, poetry or nature study. It’s our time to decompress and settle down. After we may disperse to our own activities, but many times we linger to play a game, read or work on a craft. On days when we are not able to have our tea break I find everyone tends to get cranky and disagreeable around 4:30, I call it “the witching hour”. The combination of resting and appeasing our blood sugar levels seems to do the trick. On tea days the tone is set for the rest of the evening and it usually goes smoothly. You can’t allow activity to continue to escalate without giving the mind (and body) some downtime to recharge.

With my grandma’s recent passing I decided to have our tea in her honor. I sifted through her “Cooky Book” from 1963 for something to make. Grandma Jean had marked off many recipes that she used but I noticed an extra big checkmark on the Scottish Shortbread recipe, so we made them. The table was set with one of grandma’s hand embroidered tablecloths. She gifted me with this one last June. She said it was “for the children” because of the childlike, whimsical motifs all around it. She would have loved to see her things being used and so enjoyed. She had a long life well lived. So instead of mourning, today we celebrate her life. We raise our little pink cups “To Granny Jean!”.

“the oil of gladness, instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

(taken from Isaiah 63:3)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Grandma Jean

My grandmother was buried today. She passed on over the weekend at 91 yrs old. The more I think about her, the more I want to share her life with others. She was a second mother to me. Hers was the first home I lived in when I was born and the home I left on my wedding day. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I realized how patient, tireless and creative she was.

Jean was born to Polish immigrants in Brooklyn in 1918. At 14 yrs old she became a “career girl” to help support the family when her father was out of work. She loved to tell me the story of how her mother had her keep a little of her earnings to buy herself a new hat every week. She always had that twinkle in her eye when she talked about those hats! She married my Hungarian grandfather when she was 27. They saved their money and bought the house in Queens that she would live out the rest of her life in. They bought the house in cash, no mortgage. Grandma Jean nurtured and fed every person and animal that crossed her doorstep. Every Christmas she would gift the local nuns with hand knit shawls “because it gets chilly where they live and they don’t have much money”. She was always entertaining someone, there was a never ending spread of polish or american food on her table. Her garden was bursting with life. She exchanged twigs with her neighbors and ended up with the most beautiful collection of roses growing alongside her pears, cherries and vegetables. Each year she canned her bounty of tomatoes. She knew what it was like to have nothing, so to have this abundance was not work, but joy.

Grandma Jean’s hands were never idle. If there was ever a moment when she was sitting still she would be knitting, crocheting or embroidering. She made jewellery, ceramics and every conceivable home decoration. When I was a child my books, toys and crafts were strewn all over her house. Grandma never fussed, but instead joined in the fun. When I got older and began bringing home my “colorful” friends Grandma didn’t bat an eye, she entertained like they were her friends. She would run out with her cart on wheels to the market and return with all the snacks we could possibly consume. I recall once when some friends needed a place to stay for the night . The friends happened to be a heavy metal band, all boys. She put out the food, laughed and told stories and played cards with them. They all slept on the living room floor with her cozy crocheted blankets. When it was time for them to leave the very big, very loud singer, Moose (who also had a penchant for spitting fire onstage) couldn’t stop praising and hugging his new “grandma”. Jean gave and I took. I am ashamed to admit that I never lifted a finger to help her. She didn’t complain, she was just happy to have me with her.

In recent years when I would go on and on about the great things she did she would shoo me away with a “Come on, I enjoyed it!”. It wasn’t until I had a family of my own to look after that I realized the strength it took to live that kind of life. A simple life of serving others.

The photo is of my grandparents around the time they got married. When my grandfather (who was equally resourceful, creative and amazing) was stationed in Hawaii during WW2 he picked up mother of pearl shells on the beach and carved crosses and hearts for his new bride back home.