Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Fir Tree

The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Andersen. Translated by Tiina Nunnally. Illustrated by Sanna Annukka

The Fir Tree was first published in 1845 and like I always tell the kids at school, “the good ones last.”
The story of the Fir Tree is, of course, universal.  We don’t know what we had till we lost it.  What you are buying with this new version is the illustrations. They are magnificent!

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Last week on the way to the girls' school I passed a tree by the side of the road.  There are a lot of black walnut trees around the area and at first thought these were just more black walnuts I was driving over.  But as I passed them I realized they didn't look like black walnuts.  They were smaller.
It's a beautiful tree and it sat all by itself on the side of the road at the side of a swamp. I had a small bag in the car so I picked some up. 
 It was pretty easy.  There were a lot of them and some were even out of the hulls. I scooped up what I had time for right then but knew on the way home I'd stop again.  It was a beautiful day. Why not?

I was thinking they were hickory nuts and while I know the best way to crack a black walnut it to drive your car over it, my son-in-law will sit with a hammer on the cement steps laboriously cracking black walnuts for his mother and his Elizabeth. I pictured that and had to work myself into wanting to spend time doing the same with these nuts.
 After I hulled them I had a nice little pile.  Then thought I would wait till a nice day to sit outside on the steps and crack them.  Silly me!  A lil' ol' nutcracker wasn't going to come close to cracking these and I got to wondering how in the world they grow into trees, what kind of muscles does Mother Nature have??  And then I thought of the squirrels and thought that maybe they didn't eat these because there were so many of them on the ground, untouched by squirrel teeth. Squirrels do leave evidence they've been around.  I saw no signs. 
 So, today, I thought I'd attempt harvesting my forage.  I didn't have to sit on the cold ground, I had a concrete block racoon proofing the lid to the bird seed.  I had a dish to hold the bounty.
I am easily bored.  This is my reward for 20 minutes.  It took a few nuts to conquer my fear of smashing my quilting fingers with the hammer but I did find a good way to hold the nut and discovered how much pressure to pound with.  Cracking the nut was the easy part.  Getting it out of the shell, bit by tiny bit was another story.   How did the Native Americans do it?  Was hulling and cracking hickory nuts the job they gave to someone as punishment for a bad deed?  Was this something the women all sat around doing with two rocks, a glass of wine and a bar of chocolate by their side?  I sure hope so.  I have a long way to go, but I'll do it.  Now it's a challenge.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Do You Apron?

This past weekend was retreat weekend.  From Thursday lunch till Sunday brunch we were coddled by our Inn keepers so we could spend the time between succulent meals stitching on our projects.
 Just a little bit of heaven twice a year.
 Here we are, from your right going left, me, Joyce, Lisa, Janet, Barb, Marilyn, Nancy, Vicki and Sally. We were so lucky, our weather was perfectly October.

Last year someone, I believe it was Marilyn, suggested we make aprons for this year, trade if we want or keep if we want, but let's do aprons.  I wear aprons all of the time because I'm a bit of a slob when it comes to cooking.  If it isn't splashed on my shirt I'm grabbing the closest towel, either way, I tend to end up a mess.  So I wear aprons. For that matter I should wear bibs, too.  I greet the guests at the door still in my apron and tend to keep it on throughout the party - mainly because it's so much a part of my look that I just forget to take it off! This little project spoke to me but I've been saying lately, "I quilt, I don't sew."  Hang my head in shame, Friend Jan  made mine for me.
 Joyce's apron was made of oil cloth.  Perfect for a messy batch of blooping spaghetti sauce!
 Lisa made a reversible one and it was so cute.  Hanging my head in shame, this is also her first attempt at garment sewing and I didn't see her running off to a friend to make it for her.   I can see me dipping my peppermint patties wearing this one.  The chocolate would be hidden well!
 Here's the other side.  Isn't it cute?
 Here she's modelling one Janet made.  She looked so cute in it she should be wearing a pair of Mary Janes!
 I absolutely flipped my lid over the apron Marilyn made!  Oh, my, I loved the style, the fabric she chose, the look. 
 Barb made hers out of a pair of old blue jeans!  She thought it much too utilitarian for the ones we brought, but hey, I would wear it in a minute when making something really messy and not feel bad about splashes.
 Janet made four and she doesn't even wear aprons!  This is the one Lisa modeled.  It's absolutely church lady, isn't it?
I really liked this one. A half apron is a good idea but I'd just ruin my shirt.  I need the full frontal!
 My mom would have love, love, loved this one.

 Vicki made a perfect apron.  It's reversible, covers well, fits nicely, and as someone suggested, didn't make us look fat.  Hmmm...I guess if I'm mixing a batch of cookies or dipping chocolates I'm past that concern.

 There isn't a picture of me in mine but this is the one my friend Jan made for me.  I loved the fabric (below) and thought it perfect for the Christmas cookie task ahead of us.
The apron project was a really fun one, something different than we've done before, and I think maybe there might even be a few apron converts among us.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Return of Sir Percival

Product DetailsThe Return of Sir Percival by S. Alexander O'Keefe

     What can be better than a good tale of the Knights of the Round Table?  For more years than I care to admit to, the legend of King Arthur and his Knights has lived in a soft spot in my heart.
     I was given an advance copy of The Return of Sir Percival by S. Alexander O’Keefe and will admit to being apprehensive about reading it because I was afraid I wouldn’t like it.  We don’t know if there even really was an Arthur.  We think there was, but have no absolute proof.  If Arthur didn’t exist then what of Guinevere? Percival? Galahad?  Lancelot?  And if they didn’t then how did their story come to endure for so long? Would this author’s story do the tales justice or not?
     In this story, Percival returns to Albion (England) after ten years away.  He didn’t know when Arthur sent him away on a quest for the Grail that he was sent away to remain safe and to fulfil a prophesy upon his return.  But the Albion he knew is gone.  Arthur has been dead for seven years, Guinevere is in hiding, Galahad along with all of the Knights dead, the country is in the control of Morgana and the Norse invaders. The peaceful Albion Percival sought is in ruin.
     Sir Percival is on his final quest, he intends to find Queen Guinevere and as he travels the length of the country looking for her he encounters Morgana’s determination to control the country and the people and do away with him. He uses his newfound strategies learned during his Grail quest, gathers an army and confronts Morgana in one last battle for control of Albion and for Guinevere’s life.
     My fears about not liking this tale were unfounded.  Author O’Keefe did a good job in bringing Sir Percival home.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Orphan Mother

The Orphan Mother by Robert Hicks

     If you read Widow of the South by Robert Hicks then you’ve met Mariah Reddick, slave of Carrie McGavock, the widow of the South.  Now, the war is over and we hear Mariah’s story. 
     The slaves may be free of bondage but only just in the eyes of most white southerners and certainly not enough to be actual citizens.  Mariah is a midwife, the only one for miles around Franklin, Tennessee so she is trusted by the women and only grudgingly so by husbands.  Mariah knows to keep her knowledge in her head and her head low and by doing so she can lead her life.
     But her son Theopolis has ideas about real freedom for the freed black man and attempts to take a stand and make a speech to this affect during a ceremony in town.  Something goes wrong and Theopolis is killed.  The fingers of blame are pointing everywhere and Mariah is going to find out the who and why because she feels like her life is going backward.  
     A stranger in town, a man called George Tole, befriends Mariah but he is running from his own past. His skills though, he carries with him and devotes himself to helping Mariah learn the truth about the death of Theopolis and the people who run the town.
     I wasn’t sure if I was ready for another story like this one, but as I read I discovered this wasn’t another story like others.  We may be ignorant of what the freeing of the slaves actually meant for them and finding new ways of looking never hurts, especially considering there is an undercurrent still visible today.