Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!


I love these Normal Rockwell paintings depicting two very different WWII Thanksgivings. 

I hope your day is filled with family, good food, and many blessings!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dream Casting

Today I'm celebrating because I finished all the line edits of my book! It was a mountain of work, but thanks to my awesome family, I plowed through it in 1 week. Hooray! Now all that's left is proofing, last minute little edits, and then I can publish!

So, to celebrate, I thought I'd share my dream casts for my main characters, Alex Moon and Lonnie Hamilton. Exciting!

Picking out faces was something I did at the very beginning of writing my book, The War Between Us. It really helped to have a face I felt came the closest to what I imagined my character looking like. It helped me visualize them in a concrete, realistic way. Unfortunately, my main characters' looks tend to be very allusive to me for much of the writing process - side characters not as much, so having pictures helps as I write.

If my book was to be made into a movie (seriously, that would be so awesome, but also very weird!), I've got just the right people picked out. Here they are:

Alexander Moon
played by Lee Je Hoon

For Alex, who is Korean American, I pictured him as kind of the cute "boy next door" but with some complexities in his facial expressions. I thought Lee Je Hoon captured that look really well. He also has this great ability to pull off suave and casual which I imaged my character, Alex, doing. 

The inspiration for my character's killer smile actually comes from Jang Geun Suk in the K-drama "You're Beautiful". For half the show he's all frowny and grumpy, but then there's this glorious moment where he turns on this brilliant smile, and his whole face lights up. Watching it, I actually jumped back a little and said, "Whoa!" - the change was so dramatic. It blew me away that someone's face could change so drastically, and I knew I wanted to use that affect for Alex. :-)

Lonnie Hamilton
played by Susan Peters

For Lonnie, I pictured someone with light hair and a kind, pretty face. I also wanted to find a girl that was more old-fashioned looking, and it's very hard to find that in modern girls, funnily enough. I loved the sweet innocence of Susan Peter's face, and she's very close to how I picture my character, Lonnie. 

Unfortunately, this casting would be impossible. Susan Peters is deceased and if she were alive, she'd be quite old today. Aah, well. Dream casting is fun even if it can never be a reality! 

My book is scheduled to be released December 7th. Look for it on Amazon! I'll be putting an announcement and a link on here too. I'm so excited! It's been a year and a half of a lot of work and a ton of perseverance with a bunch of support from loving friends and family. I feel very blessed for having such a big dream of mine come true.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Books and Fabric

A friend of mine posted this link from the fabulous website The Art of Manliness. It's a list of the 50 best books for men and boys - such a fabulous list. I'm happy I've read so many of them myself and have gotten my son off to a good start. Check out the list yourself. There are a lot of great ones!

On the subject of fabric, I tried to get a start on some sewing during my writing break, but I just got my line edits back this week, so I didn't make much progress, but I did do some!

 Here's the fabric I'm using for my son's 18th century boy's shirt. It's a blue checked linen. I'm so excited!

I like to take my sewing in steps so it's not so overwhelming. Wash and iron the fabric. Cut out the pattern pieces, pin and cut out the fabric, mark the fabric, then finally sew. It may take me longer, but at least I get it done, step by step!

My fabric pieces are cut out now, but until my book is published, that's the way they'll stay, I'm afraid. Ah well. It'll get done soon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

5 Excellent Historical Fiction Books

I was going back through my list of "Read" books on Goodreads and came across a WWII YA Historical Fiction that I had loved, but since forgotten the title of. Then I thought that I should do a list of little-known historical fiction books that I've loved to share with you. The first slot goes to the book that inspired this list.

1. Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman

This book was entrancing to me. It's a book set at the beginning of WWII and takes place in India. It's the story of a girl whose father receives a brain injury and their family must move in with relatives, where things are done differently and are fraught with trials and frustrations. It's such a beautiful, moving book about a part of the world that is rarely talked about in conjunction with the second world war.

2. Death Comes as Epiphany by Sharan Newman

This book is the first in a long mystery series about Catherine LeVendeur, a girl living in 12th century France. She is about to take her vows as a nun, but ensuing events prevent this and take her life down a vastly different path. The historical detail is breathtaking and wonderful, and Ms. Newman delves into some little known and somewhat controversial topics in a few of the books. I found them delightful and mind-opening, especially as its a time period I don't usually read about. Catherine is a wonderful character, and what I love is that the author doesn't keep Catherine in a bubble. She lives her life, marries, has children, moves around, and behaves as a person should, all while solving mysteries within her life's parameters. I found this quite refreshing!

3. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

This book is already a classic, but I feel like no one talks about it anymore. I've read this one several times throughout my life and love it every time. It's a story about misfortune, grudges, forgiveness, fear, discovery, and coming of age all within the backdrop of the beginnings of the Revolutionary War. Johnny Tremain is a difficult character to truly love because he's grouchy and proud, but through his trials he grows a great deal. It's a fantastic adventure that I will continue to enjoy for many years to come.

4. Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Okay, I have a soft spot for historical mystery series, but I couldn't pass the first book up in this series. While I don't agree with the direction the author takes the series in the last few books, what I really love about this series is the level of historical detail. She delves into the many issues that faced Great Britain during and at the end of WWI. It's really wonderful to read such fantastic quality of research in a book, and Ms. Winspear does it amazingly well.

5. Guinevere by Sharan Newman

This is another book by Sharan Newman about Guinevere, the future wife of King Arthur. I found this book so fascinating because in the book, Guinevere is a girl and she lives during a time in Britain where the Roman culture and the old druid beliefs clash a little bit. I loved how Roman her home is with mosaic floors, and how she observes the old rituals of the servants. I just found it such a fascinating snapshot of time in British history with a legendary woman at its center. Arthur makes an appearance at one point in the book, but you'll have to read it to see how everything unfolds. :-)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

18th Century Breeches - Completed!!!

18th century fall-front boy breeches

Yes, it's unbelievable, but I finally, finally finished those darn breeches for my son! It's a good thing I made them too big. He keeps growing, but I don't sew any faster. What held me up all these long months, besides working feverishly on my book, was those darn buttons. All 14 of them. I had to cover each bone mold with fabric, then sew it on the breeches, then cut and finish the buttonholes. All 14 of them!!! It was tedious, but I'm sure you've gotten the clue already. :-)

I'm pretty proud of them overall. I'm always a little astonished at the end of any pants/trouser/breeches making, because they seem like such a difficult piece of clothing to make, but somehow they turn out in the end. And they look like pants!

My son is so thrilled. When I showed him the finished breeches, he smiled and said, "Good! Are you going to finish my shirt soon?" Ugh. Poor kid. He's had to wait ages. The shirt is the next hurdle. Every time I look at the pattern by Kannick's Korner I go through some mild fuming. Why does it have to look so complicated? (It's got 4 gussets! Maybe more... It just seems so unreasonable.) I'm half tempted to just buy a different, more simple pattern like from Past Patterns, just to get my feet wet. I'm bound and determined to sew like a madwoman this winter. I really want us all to be dressed for the 18th Century Market Fair at Ft. Frederick next year!

Back of the breeches
Detail of buttonholes and ties at the knee
(see video below!)

Detail of the font button flap with a peek at the back lacing holes
The pockets are partially open, but buttoned. An interesting design.

I found this video by Ft. Ticonderoga on doing correct 18th century buttonholes to be very helpful, and I think my buttonholes have turned out vastly better than ones I've done before. I didn't follow his instructions exactly, since I did them from memory off his video, but adding in the bar tack does make the holes look nicer. I'll have to try them using his whole method next time for my son's waistcoat, when I get around to making that.

I do still need to whip stitch the inside seams and then wash them to get rid of my markings, but really, they are wearable, and that's all I care about! Whew!

WWII Fun & Awe

I had a couple links to share that I've come across recently.

One is for a Studio C comedy sketch set in WWII. It's pretty funny!

And second is this photographer, Marc Wilson's work capturing abandoned WWII military structures throughout Europe. Haunting, but beautiful too. Click here to check out the amazing photos.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Wartime Halloween

I was just talking to my dad today who lives in Des Moines, Iowa. We were talking about Halloween and he mentioned that they celebrated Beggars' Night yesterday. Apparently, in Des Moines they don't have trick o' treating, but do "tricks for treats" where the kids have to perform something like a silly, ghostly joke or pun. The change was made in the 1930s to discourage all the horrible Halloween pranking going on and to put the focus on the kids having to do something for the candy they were receiving instead.

There's a nice article about it over at the Des Moines Register. Click here to read the full article by Kelsey Batschelet. Here's a neat little snippet from the article relating to WWII:

"Beggars' Night gained traction, and in 1942 it was promoted as a way for children to play a part in the war effort. The rallying headline, “Kids! - Don’t help the Axis on Halloween,” topped an Oct. 29, 1942 Des Moines Register article. The piece referenced the work of Des Moines area school teachers, who spent the week of Halloween in 1942 giving “special talks on how material destroyed on the home front hurts America’s fighting men on the war front.” It also chided teenagers for soaping windows, saying that “soap wasted … means waste of an ingredient used in manufacture of high explosives.”

There are lots of interesting aspects about Halloween relating to the war. Here is a great article about wartime Halloween on the American WWII website. Here's another article as well, and here is one about how Halloween vandalism waned greatly due to the war. A good thing, I'd think!

Have a safe and fun Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2015


This little break from writing or editing or worrying about my book has been wonderful! At first I didn't know what to do with myself. The day after I sent my completed content edits to my editor I started to reread my book from the start and my husband reminded me that I needed to take a break. I was stubborn at first, but eventually came 'round to his wisdom.

I've gotten in a lot of pleasure reading including some WWII fiction and 1940s magazines. I've had lots of fun pinning hoards of 1940s and other era clothing on my Pinterest boards. I even went antiquing and bought a working 1950s chrome toaster with bakelite handles (my kids like toast now!), a 1930s double waffle iron (still need to clean it so we can make some smashing waffles), and a working 1940s AM shortwave radio. SO thrilled about that sweet little find!

Then my best friend, Mairi, came for a visit and we visited oodles of fun places like Mt. Vernon (George Washington's home), Gettysburg and it's glorious fabric shop, Needle & Thread, Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, MD for a candlelight cemetery tour, the original Washington Monument & Appalachian Trail, and Historic St. Mary's City. Mairi is an archaeologist, so St. Mary's was a great place to go, and lucky us, they were carrying out an archaeological dig at Mt. Vernon when we went. We got to see into the deep pit they've dug so far. So cool!

Of course we visited an antique shop due to our mutual love of old stuff, and because of Mairi's sharp eye, I came home with a box of steel WWII "Vicky Victory" hairpins for a nice price. And at Needle & Thread, we raided the clearance bin and I found 3 yards of a navy blue cotton print perfect for a 1940s blouse or skirt or both! I've got my eye on the patterns at Wearing History for the 1940s Sailor Girl Play Suit and the 1930s Togs outfit. Through tons of pinning on Pinterest and browsing through my 1940s magazines, I've been learning a lot more about WWII fashion. I've got a fun, new project idea for the new year using my magazines  which I'll tell you about soon. (since the sewing project didn't work out the way I planned)

I feel much more refreshed and have a deeper knowledge and understanding of many aspects of WWII that I didn't have before I wrote my book. I feel much better going into the last edits on my book before I send it out into the world. I can't wait! :-D

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Heartbreak of Museums

Now that the content edits on my book are done, I have a little breather room to think of other things for a few weeks besides editing - like sewing (fingers crossed!) and catching up on my blog.

I had fully intended to write about a few museums I revisited when our family took a summer trip to my home state of Indiana, but finishing my book took priority and I was also procrastinating.

I'll be honest. I was really discouraged just thinking about writing about the museums mainly because I was severely let down by one museum I've always held very close to my heart. From the time I worked there to the present day, it has, in my opinion, strayed from its once shining path in museum progressiveness and excellence. It's been hard to even think of writing about it. I've debated back and forth over whether I should lay it all out, where they're going wrong, to remind them of what they once stood for. I don't know if that would be beneficial or not. I'm sure I only know part of the story about why they are now the way they are and undoubtedly the main reason is funding.

Funding is almost every museum's main concern. What sickens me is that I feel this museum has gone from being an institution that is passionate about teaching history to one that is about making money and pleasing those who hold the purse strings. It is a very hard thing in the museum world, and it might sound overly dramatic, but I am in effect heartbroken. The sad thing is that I know I'm not the only one. I spoke with some employees I used to work with and this change is something they all know and/or feel and fight against every day. There are some very beautiful and proud parts of this museum that have been laid waste for things that have no meaning or tie to the land itself and it's an absolute tragedy. What's worse is that it doesn't make sense.

It concerns me because I wonder if this is just a type and a shadow of the way all museums might be going with the relentless advance of technology. I sincerely hope not. I hope that many museums realize that they are so much more than gimmicks to attract visitors, that they are institutions that preserve our history and culture and teach what they know to the generations. We still have so much to learn from what museums and their collections are able to teach us.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to share everything. My experience at this museum is still something so tender and close to my heart. I recognize this feeling now of painful loss and disappointment.

It's mourning. Mourning for something that's been lost with little hope of recovery.

My supreme hope is that they find their way again. For the sake of themselves and for the people they teach.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

WWII Ration Recipe - Tamale Pie Special

Yes, I've been a bit silent on here for awhile. I'm in the thick of my book edits, and boy are they hairy! I'm having to rearrange a few scenes, cut some chapters out, etc. Oh, the headache!

Despite the writing craziness, I've had the chance to cook another WWII ration recipe recently for Tamale Pie. It's from a newly acquired, rather fun-looking ration cookbook published in 1943 called Coupon Cookery by Prudence Penny. Ha!

I just love the cover. Very patriotic and colorful!

The book is filled with clever, snappy little rhymes, including the foreword. Isn't it fun?

The Table of Contents is revealing. Chapters include "How to Use Ration Books", "Home-Tried Victory Menus" (including shopping lists), "Quantities to Serve Fifty", "Meeting the Meat Problem", "The New Slants on Salads", and "Storing the Victory Harvest". Interesting stuff! This book seemed to be doing it all from helping with ration points, to teaching you how to preserve everything from your Victory Garden with recipes and menus in between. 

 Inside there are several pages listing all of the foods that require ration stamps and because the prices and ration coupon requirements fluctuated, it helped you keep track of all that. From a food history standpoint, this alone is pretty valuable! It tells us what foods might have been available and which ones were rationed. It's actually not very easy to find this detailed of information.

What would have been even more valuable is if the chart had been filled in!
Oh well. 

And of course, there's a list of rationing "commandments" that was recommended to the housewife to help her support the war and to make her time in the kitchen less stressful.

At the beginning of every chapter is a cute illustration and a little rhyme. They sure liked their rhymes back then. I see them in 1940s magazine advertisements too. 

 And here is the Tamale Pie Special I made. It was quite tasty. What I liked is that they have you add chili powder to the cornmeal mush that you make for a bottom and top crust. I don't know if I baked it long enough, but the bottom was still like a mush/polenta while the top was nice and cooked. I actually liked it that way, though my husband didn't.
Tamale Pie Special
Here's the recipe and enjoy!