Thursday, August 31, 2006

Books read in August

At least one month out of every year, reading gets pushed aside in the general busyness of life. I'm always reading bits and pieces of things, but whole novels consume too much time and attention, and before I know it, a month has passed and I have not read a book! August was such a month. I have read from several books, but I have not read one book properly through from cover to cover. But here's a sample of what I picked up during the month!

W pustyni i w puszczy by Henryk Sienkiewicz--My Polish book, of which I probably read not more than one chapter.

School Education by Charlotte Mason--I'm going to be doing a study on this soon, and I spent a good bit of time with it, but did not read the whole thing.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy--this is the biggest thing I'm working on right now, with still something like 500 pages to get through. I thought I'd finish it in August, but I just didn't spend enough time on it.

The Bible and task of teaching--just a few chapters, as I'm rereading it slowly.

Dr. George Washington Carver, Scientist by Shirley Graham and George D. Lipscomb--I didn't finish the whole book, but this is a reread of the best biography of Carver I've ever read. I love this book and it really does Carver justice. It was published the year after his death, and includes the text of telegrams sent to Tuskegee by President Roosevelt and Vice-President Wallace on the occasion of his death. If you want a biography of Carver, read this one. When I finish, I'll do a more complete overview!

"The Sins of Prince Saradine" by G.K. Chesterton--one of the Father Brown stories from my Father Brown Omnibus. (There are five books of stories, and I'm not finished with the first one yet.)

I might have done bits of reading from other books, but this is all I can remember. It's a pretty meager list if you compare it with the past few months, but that's okay. I'm not racing anyone.

We're gearing up to start homeschool next week, and cooler weather is setting in already. Time to read!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Reading Peculiarities

I love to reread books. I have reread some favorites as many as twenty times (or more--who's counting?).

When I moved to Poland, my ability to acquire new reading material in English was extremely limited (although the situation has improved over the years). The inexpensive Wordsworth Classics, published in the UK, are often available in bookstores that sell English teaching materials, and it wasn't long before I had acquired a complete collection of Jane Austen's six books, all of which I had read before.

Those six books, for the uncertain, are Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion.

Now these six books are on my shelves, and it has become my habit to reread them every year. All of them. That means that I've read each of Jane Austen's novels seven or eight times in as many years. I know them backwards and forwards. I can pick up any book, open it at random, and step right into the story. There are some scenes that I can play out in my mind almost word for word. I am never bored doing this, and I usually reserve these books for a cold or rainy afternoon when I just want comfort reading.

I don't think there are many authors that could bear this kind of reading and rereading year after year. Jane Austen's stories are classic and comfortable, and her writing sparkles, no matter how many times you read the books. I could never pick a favorite heroine or a favorite book, because I really love them all. If I could meet an author in person, I think Jane Austen would be my first choice. She must have been delightful to know--such a fun companion. I might have been worried about what she'd say about me in her letters home, though!

I think I've already read four of the six so far this year, with Northanger Abbey and Persuasion still left to go. I can't seem to leave Jane Austen alone, and I'd like to pick up one of them and curl up for an afternoon in Bath (both of those books take one to Bath).

But Leo Tolstoy is standing between us, and I am not letting myself start any new books until War and Peace is finished. Sometimes the novel flows along, and I get caught up in the web of characters--there are so many! Other times, even though Tolstoy has helpfully provided a map, I find myself churning through "the left flank was left unfortified," with only a vague idea, really, of what a "flank" means on the battlefield.

I really need to get this story the first time around, because I don't think Tolstoy will be joining Jane Austen in my merry round of rereads.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I'm in good company.

All of these authors were born on August 28th. So was I.

In honor of the post at Semicolon, I picked up War and Peace again today, after not looking at it for at least two weeks, and was immediately drawn into the story. The French are advancing across Russia and the home of Princess Mariya is in imminent danger, particularly because the peasants on the estate are in rebellion. She is grieving for her father, and despising herself for wishing for his death, in spite of his prolonged illness and tyrannical behavior toward her. She needs to flee from the advancing French, but when she finally rouses herself from her mourning to realize the danger, the rebellious peasants prevent her escape.

And Prince Rostov comes to her rescue! Who could resist Nikolai? Not rebellious peasants and not Mariya. She falls in love immediately, although they part almost as soon as the meet. Rostov remains with the Russian Army, and Princess Mariya heads for Moscow. And then...and then...

This is a very good story. I'm sure the only thing that prevents anyone from reading it the fact that it is as long as any five ordinary books. I picked it up on page 871 of 1456 pages, only a bit past the half-way point. I wanted to finish this book in August, but I don't know if I'm going to make it. Happy Birthday to me and to Tolstoy!

The Bible and the task of teaching, Chapter 2

I have not forgotten about this book! I hope you haven't, either. Chapter two is entitled, "The Case for the Prosecution," and attempts to defend the basic premise of the book (that the Bible has a bearing on education) against various possible objections.

The first thing the authors do is point out that most Christians involved in education will already assume that the Bible can have an impact on education, and therefore, the arguments in this chapter are moot. I pretty much fall into this category, and so I'm not going to expound at length on their defense. They also examine a few ways in which the Bible may be used in unbiblical ways.

The chapter concludes with this question: "What would be a biblical use of the Bible in education?" Answering that question will take the rest of the book, but the authors affirm their conviction that "Christian educators past and present have maintained that education must be illuminated by 'the effulgent word of God.' " The quote is from John Amos Comenius.

I'll devote more space to future chapters, and I am checking into a possible source for purchasing this in the US, without ordering from the UK. In the meantime, I had to insert something about chapter two, and this is it!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

If something exists, why is it so hard to find?

I have been blessed recently with the acquisition of a number of "reading" acquaintances in Poland, or at least the discovery that some of my previous acquaintances are also readers. (You can't believe the laughs and pitying looks they gave me when I told them I read Anielka by Prus. Apparently it's a standard book assigned as school reading, and so nobody likes it. Well, it was depressing.) I've enjoyed chatting with these ladies about reading, although quite often we do not read the same books, because for the most part we do not read in the same language.

During our worship services, we've always included a time for a short children's story. Recently, we acquired a Polish version of Heroes of the Faith by Dave and Neta Jackson. We've been reading about people such as Amy Carmichael, Adoniram Judson, and Hudson Taylor. The adults have been absolutely riveted by these stories. With the exception of David Livingstone, no one in Poland has ever heard of these people, regardless of whether they have been believers for forty years or one. One man, commenting about David Livingstone, said that although he had heard the name, he had never had the faintest idea about who he was or what he was doing in Africa.

Now, these little mini-biographies, written for children, do not begin to convey the depth of their faith or the insights that can be learned from reading the writings of these Christian "heroes." During a recent discussion about an episode from Amy Carmichael's life, it occurred to me that the lady I was talking to would very much enjoy reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. I asked her if she was familiar with the story, and she had never heard of it, nor Corrie Ten Boom either. I promised to look for a copy in Polish for her.

And this I have done. I have discovered that the book was translated into Polish, and published under the the title Bezpieczna Kryjówka. But I have been completey unable to locate a copy. I have searched on every imaginable internet possibility in Poland, in the US, in the UK, and in Germany. I have not found a single copy for sale, although I did locate a copy in a library somewhere here in Poland, which does not necessarily make it accessible. Libraries here do not always lend their books, and only allow reading on-site.

So I've reached a dead end. All I can do is share the title and author and hope that someday, sometime, a copy will turn up for her to read. There are copies out there somewhere. But I can't find a single one!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Another side of the fair

My dear, craft-loving readers (I'm assuming that's the only kind I have left after this week), I would not be giving you a complete picture of the craft fair if I left you with the impression that this is exclusively about traditional Polish crafts. They play a big part, but there are numerous modern, even kitschy crafts on offer as well.

We've got some very modern pottery, and some odd-looking birds.

We've got some cute little figurines, made of clay, in the style of Wallace and Grommit. They are actually very cute, and this guy makes the most adorable little animals. My girls like to buy the critters that remind them of Redwall characters. (I think a fox and a badger came home with us this year.)

Here are some whimsical bells. I thought the little giraffe was pretty cute. Actually, cartoon-style critters may be seen in abundance, but I didn't take pictures of most of them. Some of them are just too silly.

I have the material to do a post on traditional wood carving, but these cats do not fall into that category. I guess if you like cats, these are kind of cute.

And last (and least), even here at the craft fair you can pick up the touristy stuff, such as mugs with "Krakow" printed on them, and little prints representing some of the characteristic features of the city. At least they don't sell the T-shirts with rude or off-color slogans on them!

As much as I enjoy the fair itself, I have to admit I'm a bit tired of blogging about it every day. It's been a whole week now! I actually have two more posts planned--one on wood carving, and one featuring my very, very favorite artisan. But I'm going to put them on hold for a few days, especially as uploading pictures to blogger has become difficult. I've got all kinds of thoughts seething around in my mind, and I miss having the blog as an outlet for them.

So, with the promise of two more craft fair posts to come soon, and the secure knowledge that I've filled up my quota of "life in Krakow" blogging for the present, I'm going to turn my attention elsewhere for a little while. Nevertheless, I hope you've enjoyed the fair. The only thing better than browsing is a generous pocket-allowance so you can take home a few of the things that really catch your eye!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

What are Flowers made of?

Sugar and spice and everything nice? Snips and snails and puppy dogs' tails?

Quite possibly. There are some crafters who are quite clever at making flowers out of "found" or very inexpensive materials.

These ones are made of crepe paper

And these roses are constructed of wooden petals.

And these ones are made of natural "found" material such as weeds and leaves.

These ones are made mostly of wheat stalks. They are huge, and I don't think you need me to point out that they've been brightly dyed!

But I've saved the best for last! These flowers are also made of wood, but very thin shavings of wood that have been soaked in water, then cut into shapes, and formed into flowers and leaves. They are then dyed in various colors, and they are my very favorite. I have no idea how much such hand-crafted wooden flowers might command in the states, but these ones are all between $1-2, depending on the height of the stalks. (In fact, I think all of the flowers here cost under $3--even the little crepe-paper bouquets.)

I purchased three very tall stalks, and nothing I had at home was tall enough to accommodate them. That's why I needed the tall pot/vase/bottle that I showed a few days ago. This looks fantastic in my living room.

I love the colors! These pictures don't do them justice--the leaves are much greener than they appear here. I have a bouquet of this kind of flowers that I bought years ago, and over time the dyes have faded so that the flowers are nearly back to looking like plain wood (not quite!). Nevertheless, they do fade, and I think they become more beautiful over time. Unfortunately, they also become brittle, and the wood shavings may split, so that the flowers look a little ragged. I still like them!

When I told the seller how old my "old" flowers were, she was appalled and agreed with me that it was time to get some new ones. But I don't think I can bear to throw the old ones away. I wonder if I can find a home for them somewhere else in the house?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A side note from the craft fair...

One booth at the craft fair always sells handicrafts that have been made by mentally-handicapped adults. (If that's not the currently accepted term, forgive me. I figured niepełnosprawni wouldn't convey the meaning.)

Anyway, sometimes they have quite nice things to sell, and they charge very, very little. We have a Christmas Fair in December, and at that fair, they always sell the cutest gift tags and handmade cards. The booths are manned by the craftsman, although there is usually someone supervising things to make sure all runs smoothly, change is given correctly, and so on.

I always make a point of stopping by their booth, and it's worthwhile partly just because there is always a wide variety of crafts to look at. I spotted the little green bowl there, which I quite liked, and they were selling for less than $4. I asked them to pack it up for me, and one young woman began to do so. Unfortunately, in the process she struck it against something hard, and cracked it in several places. Nevertheless, she packed it up for me, and I paid for it. As you can see, it is all together still, but it is weakened, and it wouldn't take much for it to come apart in several pieces.

Believe it or not, that is where this drawing by Picasso comes in. I grew up with the drawing in a particular context, never knowing it was by Picasso.

My Pastor's oldest son was mentally handicapped. He was a few years younger than I was, but I first met him when I was only eight years old. Scott never learned to speak, but he was part of my church life all the ensuing years as I grew to adulthood. His mother devoted hours of time to educating him as best she could, and we all treated him much as we would have treated any non-speaking 2 or 3 year old child. He was part of our church family; we looked out for him, and many church members, including myself, donated time to implementing his various therapies. Scott wasn't a "people person," and didn't pay much attention to us!

The picture of the bouquet always hung in the Pastor's kitchen, and his wife told me, on multiple occasions, that for her, that picture represented Scott. She felt that the imperfectly drawn hands looked like the hands of a disabled child. She said the flowers represented the fact that such children had something beautiful to offer the world, if we would only reach out and accept it.

Without my quite realizing it, my association with Scott and this picture created a connection in my mind between art and the mentally handicapped. I think that's why I'm always drawn to that particular booth at the fair, and why I never fail to buy something that they've made. My cracked bowl seems to be a symbol of the people who created it. They are lovely creations of God's hand, yet fragile and imperfect in some way. They need to be handled gently, lest further damage be done. And yet, if we allow it--if we can appreciate them without minding the cracks--they have something beautiful to offer the world. I still quite like the little green dish.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A little browsing around the fair...

I think for this post we'll forgo focusing on a single craft (I don't want to blog about this craft fair forever!), and take a peek at a few traditional Polish offerings. Nearly everyone is familar with pisanki, or intricately decorated eggs. These eggs are real--some of them might be duck or goose eggs, as well as hen's eggs. They are painted or dyed, and then the dye is scratched off in delicate designs.

I watched while a man painted one today, and it occurred to me to ask him how often he broke the eggs he was working on. I figured it had to happen once in a while! He said that he'd only broken one that day...

These pictures are painted onto the reverse side of the glass. The bright colors and folk style are very traditional. Even the subject matter tends to follow tradition, and most paintings depict either rural life in old Poland or church-related themes, such as Bible stories, saints, or Madonnas.
Bees and honey! Fortunately, they didn't have any bees to display. However, there were jars of honey for sale, and a plethora of beeswax candles. Some are ordinary candles, and some are molded into cute little figures. You probably don't want to burn the pretty ones, but the ordinary ones smell lovely when they are lit.
If you get hungry at the fair, you might want a snack. They're grilling oscypki here, and if the idea of grilled cheese appeals to you, each little cheese is selling for about 65 cents. It's not a terribly expensive snack, but I'll have to be honest. I cannot stand these. They are usually very salty, and the taste is very strong. It's "white" cheese, meaning uncured, and in addition...

Well, frankly, it's not from cows' milk or even goats' milk. It's from sheeps' milk. If you want to sample some, be my guest. My husband and several of my kids love it, but I don't like it. At all.
If you have a passion for wicker baskets, they are plentiful and cheap at the craft fair. I saw someone making baskets at another booth, but once again, I missed a picture. There are several basket-maskers at the fair, and they all have their own style, but there are some shapes that are very specific to the Polish culture--in particular, "market baskets" to carry your shopping in, and "mushroom baskets" for gathering your own wild mushrooms in the woods (a very popular pasttime about this time of the year).
I'm sure you all are beginning to get the idea that there is an awful lot to see at this fair. I love the fact that they are here for ten days, and if I went every day I don't think I would get bored. If I don't feel like walking around and looking in every booth, I can stand and chat with the sellers, who are also often the artisans or craftsman. They will share funny stories, tell you about their crafts or give you lessons and demonstrations. It's such a great event, I'm glad I'm here to enjoy it this year. I hope you're enjoying the visit as well!

Monday, August 21, 2006

What, exactly, is a kilim?

Since I devoted my last post to something I like and enjoy buying and collecting, we'll switch agendas, and I'll share a craft I admire and would enjoy in my home, but cannot begin to afford!

The word kilim is not exclusively a Polish word. It refers to woven rugs, as opposed to tied rugs with some kind of nap to them, and is used in many languages. Of course, "rugs" isn't really the proper word to use in English. I think "tapestry" better conveys the idea. You aren't going to want to walk on one of these.
The tapestries are woven of wool, or sometimes other organic material, on a loom like this one. When I took the picture, the demonstrators hadn't set it up. I saw it later with many colorful hanks of wool arranged on top of it, and still later it was set up with 3 small tapestries on the loom, side by side, all being made in the same pattern. I neglected to take pictures! And I never did see anyone actually working on it, but it is usually a woman.
There are three basic styles of tapestries that I generally see. The first picture above is one style. It is made of some type of agricultural fibers, not wool, and has a folksy, fairy-tale look to it. The second style is sort of square--the patterns are made according to a grid--and represent Polish cultural symbols, including important buildings or city scapes, traditional legends or characters, or heraldic signs. Occasionally you will see some patterns from nature, such as leaves or flowers, done in this blocky style. (If you look closely at the pictures, you can spot some done in this style.)
The third style, and the one most appealing to me, is much more free-form and artistic. Some of these tapestries look like Monet paintings. I don't know that I've ever seen the same pattern copied over and over (as in the case of the folk patterns), but I can't say for sure that each one is entirely unique.
Nevertheless, these are the ones that I find most attractive, and I would certainly like to be able to purchase one to display in my home. However, the prices are well beyond my means. A small, artistic tapestry can cost a few hundred dollars, and I have seen prices that reach well over $1,000. You can sometimes find very small tapestries for under $100, but "very small" and "tapestry" just don't work well together for me.
So year after year, I admire the tapestries, some of which are truly breathtaking. The one I saw this year that most impressed me (not pictured here) was done in wintery colors, and depicted birds sitting on bare branches. Like wonderful paintings, these special tapestries convey a mood and would add a lot to any room in which they hung. Don't you see something here that you'd just love to hang on your wall?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Because it's my favorite...

Did I mention that I love pottery and collect it? Oh, I did? Well, this is how it all began, with this humble little pot. I bought it at the very first craft fair I attended. I can't remember what I paid, but it was probably between $2-3 dollars. I just picked it up because I thought it was cute, if a bit rustic, and it served a function in my kitchen as well. It still does.

Since then, I've haunted the pottery booths at the craft fair every year, adding at least one piece to my collection. Most of these pots are amazingly inexpensive. I've tried to make it a rule that I will USE the pottery I buy, but I have to admit that "use" has been extended in recent years to "display for our viewing pleasure." None if it is stashed away in the closet or garage gathering dust, though!
The craft fair is, of course, a pottery collectors dream. The same few garncarstwa, or potters, come year after year. They each have their own styles, but every year offers something a little different--new shapes, new glazes, and occasionally, a truly unusual piece. This potter, Jerzy Miko (you can only see his legs!), is one of my favorites. He brings his daughter to the fair every year, and she seems quite grown up this year, as I haven't seen them for two years. Over the years, she has made little figurines--usually animals--out of clay, and sold them at the fair as well. Can you spot a cat in the midst of the more typical pots? I think that's hers. I have a few pieces at home already that bear his mark. I needed an additional container for the counter in my new kitchen, so this was my first purchase. The shape and the color are very pleasing, but the picture doesn't do justice to the sheen of this glaze--very nice! Oh, and of course it's a handy thing. I needed a place to hold those spatulas and spoons close to the stove-top!

If you are a pottery collector, there is nothing like the site of a sea of pots to set your heart beating faster. I truly appreciate them much more on an individual basis, so I can feast my eyes on their shapes and their glazes, enjoying each and every little "imperfection" in the glaze or finish that is the hallmark of hand-crafted pottery. Nevertheless, a display like this is similar to visiting a bookstore--there's so much to look at, and you just know that one or two of the books amongst the vast display is going to come home with you and become a dear friend.
As it turns out, I was quite right! I needed a tall pot like this one for a particular purpose (which I will share later), and I found just what I needed in the sea above. This pot is quite differently-shaped from the sort I usually choose, but I needed the height, and the shape is growing on me. Several years ago, I purchased a couple of pickle-crocks from the couple who run this booth (I don't know their names!), which I use as canisters for flour and sugar. I'll show them off another day, when I'm sharing pictures from around the house. (Someone asked before about the mat under the vase. It's part of a larger set I was given by some visitors from Riga, and was handmade in Latvia.)

Part of the fun of the craft fair, naturally, is watching the craftsmen at their tasks. It doesn't show well in this picture (check out the one above, where you can see the potter's legs), but all of these potters use a kick-wheel, not an electric turntable. There is a large wooden "wheel" at the base of a rod. The table sits on top of the rod, and the potter kicks the wheel below to spin the table at optimum speed. I can't remember this man's name, but he made the pottery from this last booth. I've got a couple of serving bowls made by him (and yes, I dish up our meals in them--I asked if the glazes were safe, first, though!). I also have a crock in that muddy-yellow color. After already buying a couple of pieces of pottery, I'm debating about buying yet another serving bowl from him this year. The shapes are a little different (very pleasing), but he has some new glazes that would look really nice with the pieces I already have. Decisions, decisions! For reasons I cannot guess, his items are priced a little higher than the others.Well, I guess that's all I have to share for now. If you're wondering what all the fuss is about, and what I could possibly find attractive about pottery, I'm afraid I can't tell you. I didn't plan to begin collecting pottery. I just bought that first little pot because I liked it. And then another pot or crock because I liked it. And pretty soon, it was a collection, and now I'm positively passionate about it. I just love all the pieces I have.

But I'll tell you a little secret, if you don't tell my kids. As much as I do love and enjoy all the pottery in my home, I am aware that my collection is susceptible to breakage, especially because much of it is in daily use. I've accepted in advance the fact that sooner or later something is going to get broken. And I've decided I won't mind too much when it happens, because then I'll have a perfectly lovely excuse to shop for some more...

In the meantime, I'd rather use it than hoard it, and the price doesn't justify treating it like antique China.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Let's Go to the Craft Fair!

As I said in my last post, this is probably my favorite event of the year in Krakow. Every summer, across the last two weekends of August, the organization Cepelia hosts a Festival of Folk Arts. Artisans from all over Poland come to Krakow to display and sell their wares, and demonstrate their crafts.

Folk dancers and musicians (both young and old) perform in national costumes.

The main square in the center of Krakow, called the Rynek, is filled with small vendors' booths, and festooned with decorations representing various crafts.

In the second photo below, there is a huge welcome sign proclaiming that this is the 30th such festival to be held in Krakow. It's grown over the years, from a mere weekend affair to a grand ten-day event. Beyond the fair booths, you can see the main building on Krakow's square, the Sukiennice or Cloth Hall, and beyond that (on the left), you can see the higher tower of St. Mary's Basilica. Every hour, the trumpeter of Krakow sounds the plaintive hejnał with its broken final note from the windows of that tower.

There is so much to see and enjoy here that I make a point of visiting several times during the event. I always use my end-of-August birthday as an excuse for indulging in things that I like. After nine years, I have a few favorite vendors that I look forward to seeing year after year. (Oh yes, it's also a perfect chance to do a little advance Christmas shopping, and not just for me!)

I missed this event last year while I was in the states! As much as I hate to see summer come to an end, the craft fair helps to make up for it, giving me something to anticipate each August. There are a number of different crafts that I find particularly attractive, and one or two artisans whose work is so interesting and unique that I wish they had a wider audience than just Poland. (My very favorite one doesn't have a web site!)

Join the crowds and browse with me. The sun is shining, a light breeze is blowing (okay, sometimes it's more than "light"), and the folk music filters through the hum of the crowd as you meander from booth to booth. We'll enjoy the demonstrators and the fruits of their efforts. Without a doubt, we'll find something so irresistible it will have to come home with us. Some fine crafts are very expensive, but there are plenty of reasonably-priced bargains to tempt us. I'll share some different crafts and give you a peep at my purchases over the next few days.

For my tatting friends...

The next several blog posts, over the course of a few days, are going to be devoted to one of my favorite events of the year--the annual folk arts and crafts fair in Krakow. Today was the first of ten glorious days of craft-fair bliss. I took so many pictures today, I filled up the memory card on my camera, something I almost never do!

But this first post is for my tatting friends, because Polish tatter Jan Stawasz is familiar to most internet-savvy tatters. However, since he doesn't personally speak English, it's difficult to contact him or share patterns and information. This was his sign at the fair.

He personally hand-makes his own shuttles, which he also sells. He started doing this after he learned to tat, because shuttles are not for sale in Poland. In order to share his craft, he has to provide the tools! (Crocheting is popular, so buying the thread is not a problem.) He told me today that he'd much rather spend his time tatting than making shuttles--each shuttle contains hours and hours of work, from cutting the raw shapes out of plexiglass, to bending them to the correct angle, to polishing them to a high-gloss finish.

His shuttles are very light, and a bit larger than the average shuttle, so they can hold a lot of thread (but may not be appropriate for very fine threads). He says they are great for beading, because there is plenty of room to wind a lot of string and beads onto his shuttles.

He also made this little tool for himself from an ordinary crochet hook. He cut it down, and sharpened one end to a point that works well for picking out mistakes. He put this hook into a piece of soft rubber of some kind, but he showed me another one pushed through an ordinary rectangular pencil eraser. The idea is just to make it easier to hold the tool.

I neglected to take a picture of Jan himself (maybe later--I'll be seeing him again a few times this week, I expect), but I did get a shot of some of his work for sale. The enormous doilies/mats are extremely expensive. The large oval one is selling for over $600, and the (slightly) smaller round ones for about $350. The smaller flower picture in a frame (on the table) was about $15, and the little motifs in the top left corner were about $5. The necklaces, which are made with beads, were between $30-$40.

If you look through the open space at the bottom of the display, you can see a woman seated behind the screen. She has Jan's instructions open on her lap, and she is practicing tatting after a personal lesson from him!

I really enjoyed talking with Jan today. He is a bit of a character, talking a mile a minute (Actually I hate it when Polish people do that! Makes it harder to understand!), and really enjoying his craft. He makes up all his own patterns, and doesn't really like to repeat them. His work his beautiful, and he is extremely patient about teaching someone who wants to learn to tat. I waited a long time to talk with him the first time, because he was instructing someone.

During the fair only, I'm offering to purchase and mail Jan's hand-made shuttles for $15 for one, or $25 for a pair. Those who may be interested, please let me know!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Another peek into my home...

As I said before, I love pottery. Apart from books, handmade pottery is the only thing I collect. The smaller vase is Navajo-made, and I got it during a trip west last year when we were in the States. The larger pot is Polish-made, and was intended as a pickle crock, or possibly for "aging" plum-pudding-style desserts. It was another keeper from the Great Basement Cleanup.

A house without books is like a man without a soul. Cicero said that, or something very close to it. We have an institutional-style staircase running up the middle of our house. The mid-way landings had bare walls just crying out for bookshelves, and so we obligingly supplied them. It's not enough space for all of our books, but it does make good use of some otherwise rather wasted space. If you stand on the main living floor of our house (which is the "first" floor, not the ground floor), you can look up and down to see all these lovely books.

And I just love this funky wire "thing" as both a piece of "art" and a place to display photos, drawings, or cards. I saw something similar in a magazine, only that one was heart-shaped. I saved the picture, thinking I might try to get some wire and make one myself, but then I found this one at Ikea, very reasonably priced, and I saved myself the trouble.

I have no idea if all these bits and pieces are giving any insight into the decorating style we have around the house, but I'm having fun sharing!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Frivolous Book Meme

Because I like to be different...

This is my own meme. I made it up. I'm the very first one to do this, and I'm not (exactly) copying anyone.

1. One book on your desk right now? The Literary Discipline by John Erskine

2. One book with a bookmark in it that you haven't picked up for a few days? War and Peace (Oh, the guilt!)

3. One book marked with a pencil (or other irregular marker) stuffed between the pages instead of a proper bookmark? The Bible and the task of Teaching by David Smith and John Shortt

4. One book with the cover falling off, or other grievous injuries? My Polish/English Dictionary

5. One book you "ought" to be reading, but don't feel like it? A History of Education in Antiquity by Marrou

6. One book sitting on the shelf and enticing you to read it instead of anything else? Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun

7. Your most recently acquired book? The Van Dreisen Affair by Holly Roth

8. One book on your "wish list?" Witness by Whittaker Chambers

9. One book you literally threw in the trash? Lolita

10. One person who ought to answer these questions? Oh, go ahead. All of you, out there in blogdom! What's one more meme amongst so many floating around in cyberspace?

I have yet to participate in any of these games and memes, and wouldn't you know, the first one I do isn't really a "real" meme because I made it up? But it could be real. Clap your hands if you believe in fairies.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Homeschool history in the making?

Can you think back a couple of decades or so ago, to when the first families began to make homeschooling an accepted practice? They had to contend with unfriendly school districts, vague or unfriendly laws, and--very significantly--a general lack of materials to go on with.

Today, a new homeschooler is confronted with how-to books from multiple perspectives and philosophies. There are homeschool groups and co-ops eager to take new homeschoolers under their wings and get them started. There are yearly curriculum fairs that present a bewildering array of materials on every subject you ever thought of teaching and some you don't plan to! New homeschoolers today have a wealth of experience and resources from which to draw.

Unless they are new homeschoolers in Poland.

Then they are faced with ambiguous laws and unfriendly school districts. There are no "how to homeschool" books in Polish. Not one. There are no seasoned homeschoolers to take them in hand and encourage them as they begin. Their neighbors and family members are not going to be enthusiastic about their undertaking.

Nevertheless, there is a brave little group of approximately twenty families who plan to begin homeschooling this fall. They've managed to secure "permission" to keep their children at home to teach them, and they have been convinced by the work of a Polish/American homeschool family of the "why to" homeschool, but they are faced with a blank when it comes to the "how to's." Believe it or not, this is where I come in.

I am traveling to northern Poland to speak to these families at the end of September, and I've been given a generous time allowance across a couple of days. Now I just have to come up with a plan to give them some philosophical background on education as well as some practical help to make the process as painless as possible. In two days, I can't fully equip them, but I hope to point them in the right direction and encourage them on their way.

I'm planning the first talk to be on the subject, "What is education?" I know what the schools in Poland are like, and I imagine that most of them don't really have a clue what "education" looks like. I'm planning to discuss living books, narration, nature study, journaling or "notebooking," and timelines. I'm going to have to discuss schedules and organization. In short, I want to make the time as rich and varied a "feast" as possible, so that each family will find something to take home that fits in with their needs.

I'm only slightly terrified.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Happy Birthday!

Yesterday, August 12th, was E's 13 birthday. We had a quiet party at home, but I made this cake for her, in honor of one of her favorite book series. In case you can't read the words, it says, "Redwall feast."

E. loves books and drawing, but the present that drew this smile was a gift certificate to the iTunes music store. She bought her own MP3 player earlier this year, so the prospect of new music is enticing.

E. loves to draw and she loves Redwall, so much of her drawing is based on Redwall-style characters. When I discovered this recent doodle on the back of a score-sheet, I decided Beatrix Potter might have competition.

She says I only say that because I'm her mother, and directed me to the preface of one of her Redwall books, in which the character deprecates the praise heaped on him by his mother, because, after all, mothers are biased.

Maybe. Maybe not.