What Caught My Eye: Spring and Gingham




Note: All photos are properly credited at the bottom of this post.


Gingham is such a wonderful way to inject color into life! And Spring and gingham go together perfectly to me!


Fashion Icons Love Gingham



Gingham is on Trend for Spring and Summer 2017


Stylish Guys Love Gingham



Gingham is Great at Home



It’s Spring! Go forth and Gingham!

Gingham Shirts

Di standing Gingham

Di other Gingham

Di Gingham Pants

Jackie in Gingham

Kate in Gingham Shirt

Kate Blazer & Gingham

Kate Red Gingham Dress

Grace & Stephanie in Gingham

Michele Obama In Gingham

Amal in Gingham

White Skirt/Black Gingham Top

Red/White Gingham Swim Suit

Black/White Gingham Dress

  1. Crew Gingham off-the-shoulder suit
  2. Crew Gingham Sneakers

Modcloth Gingham Sheath Dress

American Eagle Gingham Romper

Anthropologie Long Sleeve

Anthropology Gingham Top 2

William in Gingham Shirt

Mick in Gingham

President Obama in Gingham

William and George

Harry in Gingham  

 George in Gingham

Blue Gingham Napkins

Blue Willow and Blue Gingham Tablecloth

Pink Gingham Pitcher

Vintage Rose Gingham

Blue Gingham Pillow

Gingham Tags

Gingham Couch

Monogrammed Napkins

Gingham Bowls

Gingham Wicker Cushions

Gingham Bedroom

Gingham Chair

Gingham Table Runner

Gingham Chair 2 With Yellow

Gingham Chair  3

Gingham Dining Room Chairs

Gingham Slipcovered Chair

Yellow Gingham Curtains

Gingham Flatware

Gingham Cake

Gingham Tote

Gingham With Floral

Vivid Blue Gingham Chairs

Black Gingham Curtains

Gingham Bunks

Blue Gingham Couch

Gingham Entry Stools


An Extraordinary Author Produces a Very Ordinary Book


After reading the fabulous Snow Child, I fell in love with Eowyn Ivey and wanted to immediately read everything she’d written only to find out it was one of the most fabulous debut novels in ages. So, when I heard that her second novel was now out I rushed to read it. See if this sounds like me:

  • Older man, younger woman couple
  • Historical setting
  • Military  men are involved
  • Epistolary format with diary entries and letters
  • Natural history and nature study
  • Museum and archive work involved

It should have been a perfect fit with my reading tastes. Except….except….except…. It wasn’t. Well, for starters, aspirin is given and it wasn’t on the market yet. Yeah. But the aspirin thing is not a big part of the story–it’s just a sign of an editor not doing one of the jobs they were supposed to do–fact checking.




The Story

The good stuff

Allen and Sophie Forrester are a happily and newly married Army couple. He is colonel given the task of scouting and exploring the Wolverine (i.e. the Copper) River in Alaska. The story of the expedition is mostly very compelling. This author is a very gifted storyteller.I really liked that part of the story. I also enjoyed, for the most part, the modern day story of the Great-Nephew donating Colonel Forresters diaries to a small museum in Alaska. I enjoy anything to do with first-hand account of histories and diaries are a huge part of that. Archives and museums a are favorite of mine.

I really enjoyed the ending of Allen and Sophie’s story. It reminded me very much of Hoosier author Gene Stratton Porter’s life and work.


See the maps from the book–and of the real journey that inspired the story.


So what bugged me?

In a word: Sophie. I’ve never met a character so vapid, yet able to hold some really modern views. I will say that Sophie say she got slightly more tolerable after she took up photography. Maybe she was boring because she was bored and stupid because her life was stupid and without purpose not that dear Allen was away.Maybe the raven took the stupid out of her and flew away with it? It was  a relief that she grew to more than she was in the beginning.

The whole story of the raven was just too much for me in both Sophie’s part of the story and in the story of the expedition. But it wasn’t badly told. It’s just not my thing. I’m not into animals becoming people or the spirit world–too much fantasy, but that is just a matter of reading preference, not a criticism of how it was written.

Then there was  pet peeve with so much fiction today–diversity for diversity’s sake. Diversity hammered into the story with one of those big mallets with which the coyote used to try to kill the roadrunner. Beep-Beep. Why in the world the museum guy’s sexuality needed to be introduced is beyond me. Naturally the great-nephew who donates the Colonels diaries is a elderly Trump-sort who has an epiphany and repents of his wish that everyone would just shut up about sex and sexuality. Hammering something like this into a story where it has no place bugs me no end!

Now, don’t misunderstand. Had Colonel Forrester been gay–that WOULD have added to the story. If Sophie had fallen in love with the hired girl over their shared passion for photography that would have been an interesting way to get the subject into the story. But this little exchange was just trite and silly. It sounded like a PC-mandate for publication. Both turned into pompous windbags for a while so I started to tune them out. Thankfully I payed attention again and caught the wonderful ending to their story.


Another element was tiresome and beaten over the head like the proverbial dead horse. That was the now seemingly-mandatory-for-publication disparaging of the Christian faith or church attendance or praying. Sophie has no regard for church or for the Christian faith, though her mother was a part of the social justice-minded Quakers. Nor does her “hired girl,” though in her case it is more understandable. She’s an apparently lapsed Irish Catholic with a large number of siblings due to her mother being a faithful Catholic. (And, what woman of any faith at that time had much of a choice over how many kids they had to bear?) It’s not so likely, though,  for a proper young school teacher of the 1880s as Sophie was. After all, teachers had morals written into their contracts even in the early 20th Century. It really didn’t matter to me if this fit the characters or not–its just so utterly predictable in today’s fiction.

And, just as naturally, the one missionary who is a blip of a sound byte in the story was unfaithful to his wife and many children with a “native woman.” And the poor wife proclaims that their prayers must not have been good enough…right. The Colonel wasn’t much for religion either, but did have the dead guy laid out in  the Russian Orthodox Church. Now, had it been a Baptist Church you can bet he’d have skipped it.This just seemed ridiculous in places.

Finally, there was my biggest pet peeve  with so much of historical fiction today–characters holding too many modern views. At the time of the Colonel’s expedition, the country was currently fighting with various Native American Tribes. Hence the term, whether it is right or wrong,  “Indian Wars.” Wounded Knee had yet to occur. The Trail of Tears was simply a government edict.  There was remarkably little sympathy for the Native Americans or for Native Alaskans in the 19th Century. The “enlightened view” of the day was to “civilize” them by sending them off to government schools for indoctrination. As much as we would like to re-write history, we cannot. What was done to the Tribes and Alaskan Natives is a terrible injustice worthy of war crimes trials and we should and must hang our heads in shame. But it wasn’t seen that way back then.You just can’t change that, no matter how desirable it would be to do so.


The Verdict

3 stars. The story should have been fabulous, but it just wasn’t.  It is simply an average book hyped and spun to seem fabulous because the The Snow Child was an extraordinary achievement. I want to hope that the author was pushed hard to get a second book out as soon as possible. Happily most readers won’t notice the things I found objectionable–they are more about the state of historical fiction today.

In spite of the problems I had with this one, I still love the Snow Child and I’m still anxiously looking forward to more books from Eowyn Ivey.



To The Bright Edge of the World: A Novel by Eowyn Ivey


As Good as They Say It Is: Underground Railroad


What if the underground railway had been a real railroad? That’s the teaser on the back of this award-winning new novel. Usually when Oprah loves a book it is too filled with sorrow and abuse for me to deal with, but this one? WOW! This is an award-winner that deserves even more accolades

Fed up with life under an abusive master, two slaves, Cora and Caesar, take off for freedom via the underground railroad. On their travels thru different states they encounter just about every solution to the “freedom” issue ever put out for discussion. This is without doubt one of the most fascinating fiction journeys ever. Every word, every story, felt real.

I first listened to the parts of the book dramatized on BBC4’s Book at Bedtime program, then listened to it all on the audio book version from the library. Few books have held my attention as well or have made me stop and think so much. Many times it was a punch to the gut, other times it delivered tears, sorrow and more.

In years to come, when students read the literature of slavery, after they read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the will read The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

Rating: 4.5 Stars–Not to Be Missed– Just Read it!

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Angsty Romances


Angsty Romances you ask? A bit of brooding? Yes, those with a bit of attitude or a bit of angst. We all know the big one, right? Heathcliff!

Emily Bronte about invented this genre! Heathcliff and Cathy. Say no more. Angsty, brooding, violent, horrible weather–you name it, its got it. Wuthering Heights It’s available in a zillion editions, but I love the new annotated one on the right.

Poe is a romantic to me–love lost to death is tragic. There is angst. There is brooding. These are poems so you get two for one. The Raven and Annabel Lee.

Another two-for because they are first and second parts of the same story. I found a lot of angst here and a lot of typical teenage/young adult uncertainty. I loved these books, too, which surprised me since I’m 55. If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman.

Another classic, but honestly can you think of anything more angst-inducing than vampires? Once again a fine new annotated edition and a zillion others. Dracula (Annotated).

Only four this week–I don’t read a lot of upsetting things. 50 Shades is not my thing. Dystopian and Vampires aren’t either.

Top 5 Wednesday is a group you can join on Goodreads.com. Then you can post your list or do a video on youtube!

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books To Read in One Sitting



The guidance for this week’s theme is: Read In One Sitting Theme: ten of the shortest books I’ve read, top ten books I read in one sitting, ten books to read when you are short on time, top ten books that will make you read the whole day away, etc.


Uncommon Reader

Queen Elizabeth Meets the Bookmobile


Night by Elie Wisel

 Holocast memoir


Daughter of Time

Great Sluething Before the Internet


Every Frenchman Has One

Paris Memoir


Final Curtsey

Memoir of Queen Elizabeth’s maternal first cousin.


Texts From Jane Eyre



Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Coming-of-age in the Cultural Revolution


Things Fall Apart

Africa from the other side.

The classic of all African literary classics.


The Pearl

Hope? Greed? Security?

My favorite assigned book in high school.


Our Souls at Night

My Must Read Book of 2016

My Review

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted each week by The Broke and The Bookish.

Won’t you join the fun?

Review: Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave





Had I realized when I started that this was by the author of Little Bee, I might have groaned and put it aside. (You can read my review of Little Bee here ). It had all the elements of a story I’d love: World War II London, young people with varied backgrounds in love with each other–so I started listening to it and passed my week’s commute satisfied enough.

The Story:

Mary and her friend Hilda are somewhat upper class–nothing too grad, but Mary’s father is a Conservative M.P. aiming for the Cabinet. Mummy is very socially conscious–the type of socially conscious that means she knows whether to use the Georgian or the Victorian silver service at her tea for the Cabinet Ministers’ wives. Her butler uses the pewter salver for Mary, the silver for Papa. That sort.

Tom and Hugh share a flat. It was not immediately apparent that Tom was a Grammar School boy. Hugh I believe attended a Public (i.e. Private) School. The war has started and it is about to change from Phony War to Blitz. Of course they will be in it.

Mary meets Tom after volunteering herself to the War Office and being assigned an inner city school teaching post. Tom is a civil servant in the Ministry of Education who coordinates this position. Double date soon ensues with Hilda dragged along for Hugh, but that’s getting ahead of the story.

Zachery is a “Negro” child and his father is a performer in an on-going Minstrel (blackface) show at a theater. The father is an American, the mother is “gone.”

The story takes us thru each person’s war. It was engaging enough that I didn’t mind listening to it and felts for Hugh and Zachery at least. Mary and Hilda came off as Bright Young Things (which they’d have been in the 20s) helping with the 1926 General Strike (ditto), but then the war hit for real and the you-kn0w-what got real.

What I Liked:

An enjoyable story. He did a great job of presenting the immediacy of war and the senseless tragedy’s that occur. He pointed out something Britain is coming to terms with today–that “Black” Britons were not terribly welcome as evacuees or in voluntary war service like the Land Girls (recent news story on this).




What I Did Not Like:

While we almost get a glimpse inside Hugh, he’s the only one, the rest were cardboard. Mary was the kind of girl who likes to stir things up to get attention. She did care for Zachery I believe, but it really was about herself. Especially the lunch out. We can’t change the attitudes people held in the past. She was taking a huge risk and I imagine her father would have come down on her like a buzz bomb if he’d had time off to deal with her! Hilda was just dull and I kept wondering why she wanted an self-centered idiot like Mary for a friend.

There were lapses into ridiculously over-the-top language–not many–just enough that it irritated. I gag at symbolism and metaphors unless superbly done. These were just trite–the “Negro” turned white by the dust–really? I imagine there were a few people who found minstrel shows offensive in that era, but given that Amos and Andy, a “Negro” comedy on American radio was voiced by white actors and that even Bing Crosby appeared in 3 movies, including Holiday Inn and White Christmas (since removed in some editions) in blackface, I’m not thinking most people found it “demeaning” as Mary did. I think she sincerely did find it that way though after coming to know Zachery and his father–this was the only “credit” I could give her.

And, hair spray wasn’t invented yet. Sorry. No spray in salons then.


Overall it was a “good read” so 3.5 stars–the random tragedies of war were done so well I couldn’t give it less than that.



Reading Bingo!


My photo of the News-Observer’s Week 11 Bingo Card

The Charlotte News & Observer runs a Book Club Bingo feature to encourage children to read more.Most book bloggers call this a “Reading Challenge” and plan their reading to meet all the categories. I get neurotic and end up not reading when I do that. Instead I just read, then at some point, I take stock of where I’m at with whatever Challenge–or in this case whatever week’s Bingo card.


I decided to look at this weeks card to see how my 2017 reading is going.

How I scored: no Bingo yet for 2017, let alone for this week. I always get socked by squares like A YA Novel or A Graphic Novel or, just as bad, A Short Story Collection–and on this card all three were in one row pretty well dooming the entire card in one way or another. I also didn’t read anything (yet) from the year I was born, none made me cry, I may have read something by a NC author and not know it and I haven’t been re-reading things. Re-reading is the square that cut me out of a bingo! I can think of one self-published memoir, written by a graduate of my high school (he was a year or two ahead of me) that IS about my hometown, but I bought it and haven’t read it.  That square killed another bingo. And then there’s the always popular Book With a Number in the Title. I didn’t read a Stephanie Plum yet this year, so that one did in yet another row.

Why not match up your reading so far this year. How do you fare? Leave me a comment!


Sequel, please!


My Review from July 2015: I’ve always been drawn to the stories of the World War II “war brides.” [Well], I devoured Ship of Brides by JoJo Moyers—a novel she wrote before Me Before You fame hit. The layers of this story were amazing. Not just the tale of how each bride came to be on the ship, but much more than that—how she became who she “is” on that ship. The story is there too of the ship’s Captain, of a Marine and of others.

Since July 2015, I keep coming back to the main characters and wishing the author would write a sequel telling of their lives adjusting back home in peacetime, but even stricter rationing and all. I’d love to think the Captain finds romance. I wonder if the Marine had PTSD? How did the a few new characters–wives we didn’t hear about i the first book get on after arriving in the UK? There’s a story here waiting to be told! Ship of Brides by JoJo Moyes is currently $1.99 for Kindle.



High Court Judge Fiona Maye deserves her own series. I loved her. Nothing quirky or silly, just a solid legal mind and compelling personal life as a well-heeled, well-educated woman in a great city. Midsommer Murders meets Rumpole of the Bailey  meets Silk, but with Kirsten Scott Thomas as be-wigged and be-gowned Fiona and Jeremy Irons as her rat baggish-midlife crisis-suffering husband–lots of potential here. And women of a certain age want to see women of a certain age still strong, still in their careers, still being taken seriously and still doing serious stuff. And they like to listen to Jeremy Irons voice….. And, if they even got shown tumbling into bed in a moment of unintended reunion–well! Score one for those of us of a certain age! Still sexy is a big deal. Plus she’d get to dress great, lunch at the House of Commons, holiday in Tuscany and cool stuff like that to add interest.Are you listening @ITV or @BBC?  The Children Act by Ian McEwan.


Do you have a favorite book you’d like to see earn a sequel–or become a series either of books or on tv? Leave me a comment or link to your own post.



Using a Bullet Journal for OCC Shoebox Organization


You all know I’m a big fan of packing Christmas shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. You can read previous posts on this subject here, herehere, here, here and here.

I’m off to a good start this year by using my new bullet journal pages to track what I need and what I already have. Yes, I’ve taken to carrying one journal with me, but still use the system I outlined here for my journaling. This one I carry with me is like a note pad to jot things down to remember.

RULE CHANGE for 2017:




I try to pack every box with a Malawian village child or a former USSR-country orphan in mind. It’s up to the God where the boxes go, but that’s how I choose to shop. I track my boxes and was pleased to see my prayers, while not answered EXACTLY by country, at least they went to areas with the same sort of needs. The two cold weather boxes I packed went to a country with mountains and cold nights, so someone is sleeping in nice warm pajamas this year!

To me this is a personal mission for both me and the recipient. I bargain shop like a maniac, but I always stop and ask myself: “Would I have been willing to buy this for [my kids]?” Note, I don’t ask “Would they have begged for it?” Unlike many today I almost never took my kids shopping with me for clothes.  I know I could fund many more shoeboxes buying wholesale lots of the same thing–and there is a great need for that–but I enjoy doing as many “personalized” boxes as I can. It feels more like giving a real Christmas gift then. I always color-coordinate the bandana and hair accessories to the top I send in a girl’s box. Regardless of age or gender, every box gets a covered cup with a straw or a water bottle. Clean water must be kept clean!

Some of my recent bargains for 2017 Shoeboxes:




  1. Soccer/basketball pumps for $1 each at Dollar Tree
  2. $1 knit dress, brand new!! at Wal-Mart
  3. 2 pairs of cute girls shoes for $1 and $2
  4. 1 free tote bag of good material with cute graphic [Thanks sneakerhead.com My son was THRILLED that I got him a shirt from there and gave me the tote bag for a shoebox]
  5. Brand new Chaps shirt for an older boy $3
  6. Valentine’s bandanas with no words just cute colors and a few hearts $0.10 at Wal-Mart
  7. I found the Barbie for under $3 at my Kroger


I decided to do an on-going inventory page(s) in my journal so I could better picture what I had better and to curb impulse purchases. I also had a stash of these blue baskets (below) and, amazingly, created an almost empty bookcase so I am working on a “packing station” that I will show in a later post.



Things never to bother buying:

Kleenex. This baffles me. Do Americans really think everyone knows what this is? It will become, at best, toilet paper (nice, but they “work around” this problem all the time) and people blow their noses everywhere in the world.What a waste of box space! Ok?

Deodorant: Ultimate first-world product. Not sustainable in use. Becomes trash. Just no. It is only used in the first-world. Skip it.

Tampons: Culturally inappropriate in many societies due to virginity taboos. Also, having an insufficient supply means over-use and that can lead to Toxic Shock. If you only have one tampon for several days…… [Same is true in donating to Women’s Shelters]. Remember, when packing sanitary products do so DISCREETLY. How would your daughter feel about unwrapping a bag of Kotex on Christmas morning? Cloth pads can easily be made or bought on Etsy for reasonable pries (I buy them) but make sure they are dark colors and in a dark cloth bag. Include a few Ziplock freezer bags for soaking and carrying used pads home from school.


RULE CHANGE for 2017:



New to OCC Shoeboxes? Read How to Pack A Box

Have you started shopping for your Shoeboxes? Do you only do items you get free? Do you make anything to go in boxes? Leave me a comment–I love to hear what others do for this super cause!






Note: You are entirely free to like or dislike anything, but negative comments on the organization profiled here will be deleted. This is not a forum for discussing religious differences or disagreement. Thank you.

Top Ten Tuesday: Minor Characters I Love


1. Tristan Farnon

Whether its creating the image of a driver-less car, howling back at a Labrador coming out of anesthesia or magically waking up and shaking a bottle of something to prove he wasn’t sleeping, slacker little brother Tristan Farnon is my all-time favorite minor character. The haze of Woodbine smoke emanating from behind the newspaper, the delight in bell ringers’ and Licensed Victullars’ outings, to prank calls about Clancy “womatting” he is just plain fun. That he has an eye for the ladies and a greater taste for the bottle than for studying for parasitology is all to our luck.

2. Tofu and 3. Cyril


Tofu is little Bertie’s friend at the Steiner School whose mother may or may not have starved to death as a vegan. Tofu is streetwise and speaks his mind. I especially loved it when Tofu announced he was going to make lots of Tablet–a Scottish sweet like fudge and Bertie had, as always, to suffer with his mother’s version of what he should do for their class sale. Cyril is the artist Angus’ dog with the gold tooth. Cyril has his own adventures. Both are awesome minor characters.

4. Will Benteen



A cracker–they knew this as surely as they new the little military school cadet they buried had been a planter’s son, Will stays on at Tara where he landed with exhaustion at the end of the war. A peg leg doesn’t stop him. In the end, to stay at Tara, he marries the nasty O’Hara sister, Suellen (no mistake that you likely started to read this as “sullen”). He was cut out of the movie, but there is a scene of a peg legged soldier with Melanie’s baby, Beau, that is supposedly Will.  He has a much larger role in the book.

5. Charlie




Ever the apprentice, never the mechanic, Charlie eventually tries a new role. It’s his ongoing antagonism of M’Makutzi that keeps and his girl-chasing that always lands him in hot water. But under it all, Charlie has a heart of gold.

6. Miss Gooch



After Beau’s death, Mame decides to write her memoirs and hires a ghost writer, Brian, and a secretary, Miss Agnes Gooch. The very ordinary Miss Gooch lives in Kew Gardens with Mumsie and Edna, but finally loosens up on New Year’s Eve after Mame comes down with a deadly cold and sends her to a party in her stead. Unforgettable.




Of course we all know who my all-time favorite is…..


Downton’s Sir Anthony Strallan



Top Ten Tuesday is held at the blog The Broke and the Bookish.