Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Back on the Loom

Finally, I am back to weaving. Autumn is almost here! Yippeee! Let the pumpkins come! Scarf weather is almost upon us! I sold two scarves at the market last Saturday, so I'd better get hoppin' and weavin' to make some more.
This scarf has been sitting on my loom for over a month. I was glad to get it off of there!
It has some cool, fuzzy yarns mixed with sparkle and a few sequins:
 Goldish thick thread was the warp, and the weft varied from pale, gossamer-weight stuff that took forever to weave, to a fluffy, bulkier purple.
After getting that off my loom, I switched to something very different, a houndstooth pattern in two darker colors.
 This yarn was gifted to me a couple of years ago by a dear friend. It's "Yarn Bee," and one would not necessarily think the two colors -- jewel blue and rust brown/red -- would co-habitate well. But they do!
 Isn't that pretty? I love doing houndstooth.

 It's amazing how two colors that look okay (but not fabulous) next to each other on the loom, can transform into something warm and beautiful when woven.
The scarf below I started this morning after reading a little about color choices in weaving. You can find yourself in some ugly weaving situations if you don't carefully choose your colors.
The photograph isn't very true - the background color is gray:
But the primary weft color is more of a heathered blue/green (below), so the scarf looks blue. Accent colors are a matching heathered red/cranberry, and a bright pastel yellow with a little sparkle, which came from Anna in Japan.


I think the result will be very nice. The black accent in the warp is a speckled Impeccable yarn.
That's it for now!

The Victory of Sense over Sensibility!

I finished the novel at last!
As I accompanied Marianne and Elinor from London to the Palmers' home and at last back to Barton Cottage -- always comparing the book with the movie -- I was struck by the discrepancies of TIME. The movie seems to rush. In the movie: Marianne sees Willoughby at the dance; they discover his engagement to Miss Grey; the secret engagement between Edward and Lucy is almost simultaneously discovered; Marianne's health collapses; they leave London three minutes later in distress to get her home, etc. One feels that all these things happen within about two days.

The novel is more leisurely, and thus the assumed cause-and-effect the movie pushes on you really doesn't exist. Marianne's illness is not the direct result of hearing of Willoughby's betrayal; there are weeks -- maybe over a month! -- between the two. They linger in London for weeks as Mrs. Palmer recovers from childbirth and Mrs. Jennings attends her.

The most boring part of the book is in this section when Elinor must visit with her brother John, who is Boredom Personified. Fanny's family is not much better.

Lucy does not immediately throw Edward under the bus in favor of his brother Robert. She keeps Edward on a string, writes to him, avows her faithful love for him .. and suddenly runs off with his brother. She didn't have designs on Robert immediately for his inheritance. Robert visited her to convince her to free Edward of the engagement, his familial duty. She required repeated visits, of course, and gradually the purpose of the visits shifted. Robert did not receive all the family money; apparently Fanny ended up with quite a bit. And  Mrs. Ferrars gave in later and handed over a bit to Edward, allowing him a more comfortable married life. Austen has much fun at Mrs. Ferrars's expense, ridiculing the fickle matriarch with her inconsistent punishments and obvious favoritism.

Perhaps the single most astounding lapse in the movie is the omission of Willoughby's visit to the Palmers' house to see Marianne on her death bed. He does run on and on for pages, attempting to convince Elinor (who never allows him to see Marianne) that he's not such a scumbag after all. He admits to having a true, loving attachment to Marianne at one time, which is about the best he can say for himself. Even tender-hearted Elinor sees through this, however. She knows the man chose his need for cash over his love of Marianne, which means he didn't love her in the first place. Austen makes it clear that Willoughby didn't need Mrs. Grey's 50,000 pounds a year for necessities, but for his extravagant lifestyle -- his personal addiction. Of course, knowing his treatment of Eliza and his illegitimate child rather stripped any gloss from all his avowals of love. A slug he was, and a slug he will remain.

Elinor marries Edward as the movie depicts it (which is nice), but it was not a double wedding. The newlyweds moved to Delaford to the vicarage where Colonel Brandon oversaw the refurbishments of the house, and Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne visited regularly. Brandon is over 20 years Marianne's senior, and the romance is only barely such. He adores her, but she is won over at last, according to Austen, simply because she could not withstand the desires of everyone she loved. She had resigned herself to a single life based on her Love Maxim. It seems to me that Emma Thompson, in writing the screenplay, kept her own character's romance quite close to the book but allowed her character's sister's romance to stray considerably.

Austen makes the point quite plainly: Marianne must confess that all the best loves in her own sphere were second loves. First loves are often foolish (like Edward's) or disappointed (like her own), or prevented (like Brandon's). Second loves, undertaken more wisely, are more likely to succeed. Thus, sense conquers sensibility. Elinor's self-controlled head-over-heart methods prove more admirable than Marianne's catapulting-over-the-cliff with one's heart. However ... however ... Edward is Elinor's first love, yes? And her love for him is the strongest and most faithful. Perhaps Austen's message is not that second loves are better, but that first loves for which one waits cautiously and patiently are best of all.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Falling Behind

Do you remember the feeling of being in a group of walkers or runners, and everyone rushed ahead? And you were left in the dust? I became a lagger and stroller with a couple of friends, and in the end we resolved ourselves to falling behind.

Sometimes life feels that way, yes?

PomPom left a comment yesterday reminding me to visit her blog again to see her new kitten. Which I did! Except ... in my irritating way I couldn't just read the kitten post; I had to read ALL her posts :) I just had to. I couldn't bear to miss out on anything! PomPom had about 8 posts, I think, since I'd last caught up.

And it was so fun to read about her happy life in Colorado! Whyohwhy do I lag behind and forget to read about my friends' happy (or not) lives elsewhere? It's so restorative to me; it pulls me out of my own little miseries and frustrations. It's a good thing to touch the lives of others, and blogging is wonderful that way.

So this morning I looked at other friends' backlog of posts. Karen has 30! How will I read them all? I felt safe clicking over to Mags; she doesn't post very often ... but even Mags had 6 unread posts! Argh. Rainey has 10, Gretchen has 16, Prolific Kezzie ... 19! Alright, gals, it may be a while before I get around to all of it. And sometimes ... I do confess ... I skip around to a few here and there that seem interesting to me. I know we all do that.
My loom has remained untouched for about a month. I call this my Yearly Break from Yarn, but in fact it's gone on longer than usual, and I need to get back to it.

 I made a batch of soap because I was running so low.
Doggies are snoozy. Sometimes I envy them their lethargy.

 I am thoroughly enjoying my chickens. They are hysterical to watch! Hens erupt from the coop in the morning. Bernie does his crazy side-ways chicken hop at them. Lucy squawks at Punkin and runs her away from the nesting box. Ethel hogs the food. Ruby lets me feed her and pet her now.
 I've playing the piano a little more lately ... not just hurriedly preparing for Sunday morning, but playing through old pieces, learning a few better. It's quite soothing.
Bottom line: my big issue is contentment. I always, always feel that life is supposed to be a little better, a little calmer, a little happier. It's never quite good enough for me. That's a sin (oh yes it is) that I need to wrangle with a bit. Incorporated into discontent is a spirit of ungratefulness, the closer-to-the-heart matter.

Update from last post about "longing for community" -- I do think our American coffee shops often serve this purpose in some communities. I think we need more of them. I think Americans need to feel free to sit in the coffee shop and nurse a cup for a couple of hours and RELAX instead of dashing around. Oriental has a good coffee shop for this purpose. The farmers' market there, although having a lovely friendly feel, is small, attracts a small segment of the populace, and only lasts for 3 hours each Saturday. A REAL community hub should be accessible much more often (IMO). 

Maybe I should open a coffee shop in Bayboro where I live now? Haha!!! That will never happen! I'd love to have a combo Tea Room/Yarn/Fabric Shop. How 'bout that?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Longing for Community

I've been watching Britain's Escape to the Country. It's my relaxation screen-time right now. And on every show the presenter is quick to tell us that the quaint little village we're visiting this time has a local pub or two in easy walking distance. Often they're hundreds of years old with antique signs swinging out front declaring "The Red Lion" or "The Queen's Arms" is there. A village pub says community to me -- a place where everyone can go, cozy, quaint, warm, friendly, full of good food and good drink and good company.

Why don't we have village pubs in the U.S.A.?


Anna is living in Japan now, so we're eager to learn more about Japanese culture. Yesterday Adam shared a youtube video from a young married girl, a transplant from the US to Japan. She loves  to visit Japanese "onsun," local bath houses that are scattered all over that country.

Onsun bath houses are not expensive. It's a lovely, peaceful spa, immaculate and soul-restoring. For about $6 this young woman can calm her ruffled feathers for an hour and experience quiet community with other Japanese women. To enjoy this in the states, I guess I'd need to visit a fancy spa and pay a lot of money, something I've never done. And these Japanese bath houses are fed by underground springs, and the water is changed every evening! They provide all the amenities you need.

Why don't we have local bath houses like that in the U.S.A.?

For years I loved watching Rick Steves every Saturday and traveled around Europe with him. Did you? It seemed like every Italian town, every French or Spanish village, every English hamlet had a market once or twice each week -- every village had its own little market. These fresh markets filled the village square (another lovely idea!), and everyone shopped there for bread, veggies and fruit, meat, fish, even clothes or antiques or books. I was mesmerized by such a central community event held every week for hundreds of years. What a neighborly thing! What do American towns have to compare? The local strip mall?

Why don't we have village markets like that in the U.S.A.?

I'm not trashing my country, I promise. But I'm wondering if we lack an essential element of community-mindedness that is assumed in other parts of the world. I'm trying to think if we have anything really comparable to these deeply-ingrained community gathering places in other lands. We have playgrounds and parks, but sometimes they seem scary, and certainly everybody doesn't frequent them. Shopping malls don't have a personal or friendly feel; like the rest of America, they are purely consumeristic. Do any of you feel we are missing this element in our culture? What could we do to try to reverse it, one town at a time? I know some small towns (Oriental is one) do have a rich feeling of community, but most do not. I think it requires a public location for people to gather -- a green, a coffee shop, a market. People move in and move out and never feel they belong. There's nowhere to go to begin to fit in. No local pub. (And a bar in the U.S. just does not at all have the same effect!) No hundred year old market. (Walmart is a sad substitute!) No onsun. I wish I had such a place!

What do you think?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Tasha Tudor Cornbread

This very minute I'm correcting a long-standing wrong. I am finally posting the recipe for Tasha Tudor's cornbread, found in her receipt book (that's her old-fashioned spelling). I've been making this for years; it's the best cornbread on the planet. I've meant to post it on the cooking page (above) for simply ages and thought I had!

Tasha Tudor's Cornbread
(originally from her great-grandmother)

1 stick (1/2 cup) soft butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup AP flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm milk
1 cup yellow cornmeal

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Preheat a 10" cast iron skillet in the oven.
Cream butter and sugar and eggs.
(Tudor says to add only the yolks at this point, 
reserving the whites until later to whip and add separately.
I've done it both ways, and it does not significantly improve 
the finished product enough to warrant the work.)
Slowly add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk.
(I warm the milk in the microwave slightly.)
Fold in the cornmeal gently.
Remove skillet from oven and put some butter in it.
Pour batter in and bake for 25 minutes.

Slightly sweet cornbread is a lovely relief to those of us brought up on cornbread-cum-cardboard. Anna loves this cornbread crumbled into her beef stew. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sense and Sensibility: Volume Two

I'm writing this post in segments as I read the novel. There's too much to remember otherwise. So ... for all two of you still reading these posts on Austen's book, here goes!
As volume two of the work, comprising fourteen chapters, begins, Elinor continues ruminating on Edward's treatment of her, or as she calls it in her mind "his ill-treatment of her." She initiates the subject with Lucy, knowing this: "that Lucy was disposed to be jealous of her, appeared very probable." The depiction of Lucy Steele in the movie as a silly, vapid girl, clueless of the allure of the much-older Elinor and ignorantly falling into confidence with a rival, is simply false. Lucy confided in Elinor with full knowledge of Elinor and Edward's attachment. In fact it was precisely because she knew of it, that she chose Elinor for these confidences. Elinor ponders, "What other reason for the disclosure of the affair could there be, but that Elinor might be informed of it by Lucy's superior claims on Edward, and be taught to avoid him in future?" Elinor sees clearly that she is being warned by the fiancee: "Stay away from my man!" Because the engagement is a secret, what other way does Lucy have to warn Elinor than telling her about it? No one else will warn Elinor off. Lucy must do it herself. When you next watch the movie, keep these facts in the front of your mind; they radically change all that transpires between the two girls. It's quite difficult, but remember while watching also that Elinor is a young, vibrant 19 year old, and Lucy is about five years her senior -- nearly an old maid and a desperate one, and likely to wait many more years for Edward until his mother finally dies off and the final obstacle is removed for their union.

Now we move to London and Elinor and Marianne's vacation there with Mrs. Jennings. Marianne goes only hoping to see Willoughby. Elinor goes to accompany her. When Marianne immediately writes Willoughby there, and writes again, and a third time, Elinor assumes by this display of intimacy that a real (if secretive) engagement exists between them. See the pattern of secret engagements in the book? Unlike in the movie, Lucy does not accompany them to London; she drops out of the plot for now. Much of the events in London track well between book and movie. The sisters do at last see Willoughby at a party, and Marianne is rebuffed and stricken.

Again, the most disturbing variance between book and movie comes with Col. Brandon and his account of his life as it involves the woman-from-his-past, Eliza. Eliza was his first cousin, not some orphan from the workhouse. She was a rich heiress, not penniless. She was not "passed from man to man," as the movie claims. Col Brandon's father, her uncle and her guardian, married her to his elder son rather than to Col. Brandon, in spite of the fact that he and Eliza were deeply in love. The father dies. Brandon moves overseas to distance himself from his brother's marriage to the woman he himself loves. What a tragic plot! Why did they change it in the movie? Two years later, he hears that they are divorced; his brother has been an odious husband.

The end of Eliza's life is as the movie depicts it -- seduction, dissipation, loss of fortune. Col. Brandon found her at last in a "sponging-house," a jail of sorts for debtors where every last available penny was squeezed out of them before they were sent at last to prison. He made her comfortable as she died of consumption. Brandon tells Elinor that Marianne and Eliza resemble each other in temperament. The warning is clear -- Marianne should be guarded safely to avoid the same pitfalls at the hands of unscrupulous men. "Their fates, their fortunes cannot be the same," he says to her. "Had the natural sweet disposition of the one been guarded by a firmer mind, or an happier marriage, she might have been all that you will live to see the other be." Elinor is that firmer mind. Brandon is that happier marriage. Marianne is safe-guarded by these two against sure destruction.

Eliza did leave a young daughter in Brandon's care, the child of neither his brother nor himself. This Young Eliza, now Brandon's ward, was seduced by Willoughby when she was 16, nearly the same age of Marianne when he wooed her. (He likely transferred his attentions straight from one girl to the other, perhaps overlapping.) Brandon rushed to his ward's aid when she was left alone and helpless, near to delivery of Willoughby's child. Willoughby came to London about 2 weeks after Brandon rushed there. The soldier demanded a meeting with the scoundrel, and as Brandon describes it to Elinor, "We met by appointment, he to defend, I to punish, his conduct. We returned unwounded, and the meeting, therefore, never got abroad." The two men fought a duel! Since  Col. Brandon, a seasoned soldier, would hardly miss so easy a shot, we must assume he was lenient to Willoughby and allowed him to live. Again -- why omit such a thrilling event from the movie?

Austen likes things in two's: Two Elizas with similar ends. Two sisters with impossible beaus. Two beaus who deceive. Even Young Eliza in this novel strongly resembles Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice by begging a vacation to Bath with a wayward friend under questionable supervision, only to be seduced there by an unscrupulous man.

Imagine this, however: Brandon and Marianne later marry. Her husband now has a ward who is only a year older than she herself is, and the ward has a child belonging to Marianne's old sweetheart. In the movie, the sheer discomfort of this arrangement is never presented, but it's beyond imagining that Austen didn't consider it.

Marianne's other pickle now is that she is bound by her own Maxim of Love. Remember it? "That no one can ever be in love more than once in their life." She staunchly defended this truth to all detractors. Now she faces a horrible fate -- she has loved deeply. Willoughby is lost to her. Therefore, she will never love again. Never! Marianne weeps for Willoughby, weeps for what she's lost, but she's also weeping for the love she believes she will never have. This is a girl with strong romantic sensibilities; she will brook no dissent on matters of the heart about which she's certain Elinor has no understanding, much less Brandon or someone like Sir John or Mrs. Jennings. And now she is doomed to a loveless life!

Indeed, this novel is all about second chances being better than the first. Austen will play out this idea to its very last encore.

***

Update -- The final chapters of volume II are perhaps the most boring of the book. They focus on John and Fanny Dashwood who have just come to London, and on Lucy Steele and her ingratiating relationship with Fanny and Edward's mother, Mrs. Ferrars. Marianne fades into the background. Elinor attempts to tolerate Lucy. The sisters do not depart London immediately because of Marianne's collapse in health from Willoughby's betrayal. No, they remain for weeks at their mother's request. Marianne continues to go out socially although with disinterest. The central social character in all this is Lady Middleton, Sir John's wife. She and Fanny become friends, and thus the entire group is united. Lucy finds herself with the Ferrars and is elated. Mrs. Ferrars, aware of Edward's attachment to Elinor, shuns her and treats her rudely, but is sadly unaware of Lucy's hold on her son.

In contrast to the movie, this section of the book is not about Marianne. She is sad but not ill. Everyone thinks it's better she remain in London to keep her involved in life. She alone wants to be home. Austen's focus is clearly on all the deep-as-a-wet-napkin relationships among the Dashwoods, Ferrars, Steeles, and Middletons. Robert Ferrars is introduced, and a more simpering, vain man does not exist in literature. Austen is doggedly drawing a contrast between this cloud of people, and Edward and Elinor. They alone are genuine, kind, thinking, wise. Of course the difficulty is this: how did such a good man find himself involved with a vapid twit like Lucy Steele? Elinor must wonder how he could love Lucy and herself. The movie never answers that question, but I hope Austen will.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

"The Word of the Lord Tested Him"

Sometimes a passage of scripture sticks in my mind like a burr and bothers and bothers me until I dig it out. Psalm 105: 19 (and surrounding verses) did this to me this week. The passage is describing what God did in Joseph's lifetime. Here it is:

"And He called for a famine upon the land.
He broke the whole staff of bread.
He sent a man before them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
They afflicted his feet with fetters,
He himself was laid in irons;
Until the time that his word came to pass.
The Word of the LORD tested him.
The king sent and released him,
The ruler of peoples, and set him free."

The passages goes on from there; it's a chronological account of important events in Joseph's life, a summary of sorts. You see the progress:

famine --> slavery --> imprisonment --> foretelling the future --> (the Word of the LORD tested him) --> release from prison

What in the world is that one sentence doing in the middle of all those other factual life events? What events in Joseph's life occur between his foretelling of the future (prophesying, if you will), and his release from prison? If we looked at Joseph's life, what years correspond to "the Word of the LORD tested him"?

Genesis 40:23 and 41:1 tell us.  Joseph waited.

Joseph was wrongfully imprisoned in a foreign country. Still, he rises to positions of responsibility. Then God gives him an amazing gift! He's able to interpret two men's dreams and predict their futures -- a baker and a cup-bearer. And his predictions come true! Joseph must've hoped this would produce his release. But it didn't happen. The cup-bearer, who returned to the king's house, forgot about Joseph and his accurate prediction of the man's release from prison.

And Joseph waited two whole years before anything happened.

And that's when scripture tells us that "the Word of the LORD tested him." While he felt forgotten and languished in prison in a strange land.

We can easily say, "Oh yeah. I understand that God often makes us wait for things in order to test us." But that's not exactly what it says. God's Word tests Joseph. What would that mean to Joseph? He didn't have a Bible. The Pentateuch hadn't been written yet. What Word of the LORD did Joseph know?

Joseph's ability to interpret dreams and predict men's futures is given to him by God; he says so. In some way, God speaks to Joseph. This is the Word that tested him. Joseph has an intimate relationship with God in spite of his many sorrows. He trusts what God says to him; he stakes his life on it. God gives him dream interpretations, and he in turn tells it to the interested parties. Then ... God's words seem to stop, come to a dead end.

Do you trust Me? God asks him. Do you still believe Me? Are you willing to wait? How long will you wait?

In our relationship with God, the one element we often fail to figure in, is time. The real test of our faith isn't always the injustice, oppression, poverty, sorrow, or grief we face. It's the How-Long. How Long will it last? We feel we could just bear up under the weight of trouble, if we know when it would be over!

Waiting is the test. Do you still believe what God's told you in the past? Do you still lean on that relationship even if everything else is stripped away? Why does God make us wait? What does He want to see in our hearts before He begins to act again?

If you've ever waited through a sorrow, you know what that agony is. God is testing the sterling qualities, the real gold, in you. He's burning off the extraneous matter. Waiting strips away the fluff of life and amazingly focuses the mind and eyes on what's straight ahead. At the right time, the Father says to His child, "Okay! That's enough waiting. Time to go." Your waiting, your testing, is over.