Tuesday, April 22, 2014

 
 

 

The past few days have been bright and warm. The trees are, at last, waking up. Chartreuse halos light up the willows all along the edge of the pond. After morning lessons, we go to the woods to play and marvel at each new sign of spring: duck and geese couples, clusters of delicate wood violets, turtles basking on logs, willow and hazel catkins. It is my favorite place to be. ♥

I am teaching Amy how to drive. She is my third driving student. : ) Every day we go out and practice a little bit. So far so good.

I often think about education, what it is and how to pursue it. In Married to Tolstoy I learned that:
Both parents gave the children lessons. Until special teachers were engaged for French, German, music, and Russian literature, Sonya taught all these subjects and dancing as well; Tolstoy arithmetic and, later, Greek. 
Sonya herself had been educated at home:
She loved literature, wrote short stories, showed talent for painting and music, and at sixteen passed a university examination that gave her a diploma as a teacher. Her essay was declared the best of the year. It was remembered, too, for hearing of her engagement (at eighteen), the professor wrote to Tolstoy: 'This is just the wife for you. She has a great flair for literature.'
Indeed, besides bearing him thirteen children in twenty-six years, Sonya acted as her husband's secretary, copying out miles and miles of his manuscripts; in the case of War and Peace, seven drafts. (It is interesting to me that Robert Louis Stevenson's wife acted as his amanuensis, too.)

But, this is what I love most about the Tolstoy's married life (which here, again, is similar to the Stevensons'):
When at last the children had been put to bed, and the manuscript on which Sonya was working laid aside, husband and wife would side down to the piano and play duets far into the night, or read aloud some favourite book. Tolstoy gave Sonya her early lessons in English. He wanted her to be able to read Dickens, for many years his favourite writer, but the first book they read together was The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins.
Now, that struck me as coincidental, since I, too, read The Woman in White last fall, just before I caught the Tolstoy bug. Somehow, I have never read anything by Charles Dickens. He keeps coming up for me as of late, so I am going to pursue him next. However, I won't be reading aloud with my husband. He would only fall asleep. ; )

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"I thought you said it was spring." 

Yesterday was mild and rainy; today there is snow on the ground. This is spring in New England, my dear Puggins. Despite the fickle weather, everything is right on schedule. The radishes are up, the chickens are laying jumbo eggs, and the trees are ready to burst forth in blossom any day now.



This week, I haven't had much time for knitting due to doctors' appointments and other matters, but the last few days have renewed my hope in so many things. I still have more answers than questions, but I am encouraged and very optimistic about the future. Perhaps I will have some good news to share with you soon.

My son has been bravely hobbling along on his sore knee all semester. There is a "loose body" in it--probably a piece of bone from an old injury--about the size of a grape that needs to be surgically removed as soon as school is out. I've been driving him to class so he doesn't have to walk the huge distance from the parking lot to the hall. The college is far enough away from home that it makes sense for me to hang out at the library in town while he's in class. This is a new-to-me library, and I have had great fun exploring it. I found these wonderful books about Leo Tolstoy's wife--a very engaging biography by Lady Cynthia Asquith and Sofya Tolstoy's personal diaries. I do love diaries. You can learn so much about a person by what they choose to record. I keep one myself--a paper record of the past day's events, my thoughts, quotes and snippets about things I've read, seen, or heard. It is a rare day that I don't write in it. Do you keep a diary?

 As violets so be I recluse and sweet,
     Cheerful as daisies unaccounted rare,
Still sunward-gazing from a lowly seat,
     Still sweetening wintry air.

While half-awakened Spring lags incomplete,
     While lofty forest trees tower bleak and bare,
Daisies and violets own remotest heat
     And bloom and make them fair. 

 ~Christina Rosetti, "Who Hath Despised The Day of Small Things?"

Friday, April 11, 2014

 
  
 

A lovely break in the midst of a busy day full of errands: Gold Rush Griddle Cookies (Welsh Cakes). Scone-ish but moister and more delicate, southern biscuit-ish but sweeter; made like a pancake but nothing like a pancake. They defy all description except: delightful.

                       Gold Rush Griddle Cookies 

3 1/2 cups flour                                   1 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar                                      1 beaten egg
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder                           3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. salt                                        1 1/4 cups raisins
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Cut in shortening until mixture is mealy. (I always use my fingers to do this: gently rug flour and shortening together with fingertips. This method works well for pie crusts, too. It is the way my mother taught me.) Add egg & milk (already mixed), & then raisins. Now mix all until moistened and dough forms.
-Roll onto floured surface to 1/4" thickness.
-Cut with cutter or glass
-Heat griddle to about 325° F  (Adjust heat as necessary. These cakes can take awhile to cook. You have to be careful the bottoms do not burn. It is better to cook them on low heat for a longer time.)
-Do not grease griddle.
-As bottom of cookies brown, top becomes puffy. Turn & brown other side.
***These cookies are best when completely cooled and topped with butter.*** 
Makes about 3 dozen

PS: Comments are open again . . . I missed the conversation too much. : )