Pamela Smith Hill on Laura Ingalls Wilder

I do love to keep on eye out for fun courses.  I’ve used Udacity, Coursera or even specific Universities’ free online platforms in the past and always try to keep an eye out for a great class in can take in the few free minutes I have during the day. I stumbled upon Pamela Smith Hill’s  online Laura Ingalls Wilder course and my heart sang. Ms Hill brings your through Wilder’s works looking at authorship, race, history, autobiographical, memoirs and fiction themes.

It was the discussion of autobiographical, truth and memoir that caught my attention. In an age of David Sedaris and the scandal of James Frey I just haven’t grown up expecting an author to tell the truth. I suppose reading Lolita at too young an age stopped me from ever trusting my narrators. So while I always enjoyed reading Laura Ingalls Wilder I never took her books for historical nonfiction. How could you? Try remembering your childhood and then cross reference that against history. Which is your truth? Your memory and feelings surrounding the experiences  or do you deviate into dry timelines?

Remember YouTube is always another great source for finding lectures by Ms. Hill. Universities have been really diligent about uploading guest speakers to their online channels which means from the comfort of your work computer (sorry boss!) you can listen to Stephen King trash poor writing or Pamela Smith Hill discuss your favorite childhood author. Check out the attached video and comment.


Pickled Limes History & Recipe

`Why, I owe at least a dozen pickled limes”- Amy March

I totally breezed past the fact that Amy was discussing limes in this chapter and not chocolate, fidget spinners, pogs or even digital Pokémon …looking back it may seem weird that pickled limes were the children’s currency of choice but lets be honest…my own babies will probably mock me in the future.

Once I accepted that pickled limes were all the fashion it was interesting to begin researching why and what teachers had against them. Linda Ziedrich concisely broke down the cost, hidden political dealings and social implications of these tasty treats in her book Pickling.

“There they were sold from glass jars on top of candy-store counters, and some families even bought them by the barrel. Because the import tariff for pickled limes was quite low – importers fought to keep them classed as neither fresh fruit nor pickle – children could buy them cheaply, often for a penny apiece. Kids chewed, sucked, and traded pickled limes at school (and not just a recess) for decades, making the limes the perennial bane of New England schoolteachers

Who knew there were  lobbyists keeping regulation at bay that long ago? Lime lobbyists must have been a pretty tart bunch to deal with…see what I did there? Teehee.   I previously wrote about plum pudding and referenced Eliza Acton’s amazing book Modern Cookery for Private Families from  1845 and of course she also has a pickled lime recipe!

pickled limes

I really want to make a batch of these but I’m struggling on what to use them in after. I can’t see my coworkers wanting to trade with me or eating them outright. I could see using the pickled lemons when roasting a whole chicken…perhaps a good future Christmas present: a jar of pickled lemons and a jar of sea salt with thyme and rosemary mixed in. It’s a small group of foodie friends that would value that gift but the reaction would be amazing!

I may need to start compiling a separate page just for all the recipes I’m compiling throughout the years writing on this blog. You can tell my priorities at least when reading. Love a story and a snack!

Share-Day Post: Vintage Needlework Books Online

Kindred blogger! You all know my obsession with when researching a post and Rabbit Girl Crafts has assembled a collection of free resources for vintage patterns! Throw on a Netflix marathon and start crafting tonight!

Thanks to university libraries and dedicated individuals in the United States and around the world, it is possible to find hundreds of free, out-of-copyright needlework and embroidery books and patterns online. If you are interested in embroidery history or vintage patterns, here are some resources to get you started. Warning: You may get lost for […]

via Free Vintage Needlework Patterns Online — Rabbit Girl Crafts

Sketches from Concord

I’ve been cruising through on my lunch breaks lately.  Talk to people and interact? Nah. It’s easier to put my nose back into a book (or screen in this case) then try to suppress my sarcasm/dark humor for another hour.

I came across this book, Sketches from Concord and Appledore, and my initial reaction was pure joy; it’s difficult to find older books that included Lousia May Alcott among her contemporaries. Then I started reading it…Frank Stearns  created these vignettes to shed a personal understanding to the writers that stemmed from Concord. He’s honest in his preface that his main focus was two male authors and filled the remaining chapters with writers that he and the public were familiar with.  I should have read the preface/introduction before jumping straight to his chapter on Louisa though so my red hot rage would have tempered. Instead I read through about 6 pages describing Bronson Alcott before Stearns’ ever got to Louisa. Who after about three lines was tossed over again but this time for her sister May. Then back to Mr. Alcott, her mother and finally circling back to Louisa.

So after a cooling off period post preface reading what does this tell me about Louisa’s literary reputation around 1895?  She would have written Moods, Little Women and Jo’s Boys by this time and  have been immensely popular in pop culture. And these would have been the writings that her public knew about, her branded image late in life.  Not the dark and serialized stories she supported her family on earlier.  “Alcott grew up in an extraordinary political atmosphere, thanks to her father, Amos Bronson Alcott, who was a forward-thinking educator. He was friends with some of the most influential thinkers of his time — and yet he never managed to earn a living or take care of his family” Harriet Reisen reflected in her NPR Morning Edition interview. Stearns honored a man in those first 6 pages that had connections and influence but his disinterest in earning a living starved his family for years. Was it Bronson’s connections to great writers such as Emerson and Hawthorne that intrigued Stearns more in Bronson then Louisa’s actual career success? In Stearns’ mind were the Alcotts a package deal within the Concord community and he couldn’t separate her from her family and community?

Setting her specific chapter aside the book succeeds in providing a glimpse into Concord, Massachusetts during this time period. “The Emerson farm lies between two interesting roads, one going straight over the hills of Boston, and the other to Walden Lake and Thoreau’s hermitage”.  It would be a  fantastic source for descriptions of the community if you were researching any of these writers.  And perhaps that’s Stearns contribution. While individual biographies paint narrow pictures of their authors Stearns’ chapters show a period of connectivity. In the end he succeeds in sketching Concord just not perhaps his subjects.

Stearns, Frank Preston. Sketches from Concord and Appledore. Concord Thirty Years Ago; Nathaniel Hawthorne; Louisa M. Alcott; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Matthew Arnold; David A. Wasson; Wendell Phillips; Appledore and Its Visitors; John Greenleaf Whittier. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1895. Print.

DIY for Book Lovers

tinybookBuzzfeed is killing me on the DIY tiny book necklace!!  All the supplies are on Amazon but you could also  hunt them down across your local toy/miniature/jewelry  stores.  You’re going to need a tiny book (think dollhouse), a spacer bar and mod podge. The hardest part will be sizing down a book cover down to your dollhouse book dimensions.  Check out the link below for full instructions.


necklaceIn case DIY scares you but you NEED a book necklace in your life defiantly start checking around Etsy because there are some amazing artists.  I found the shop Tiddy Bits that will be receiving my next paycheck.



paperbooksIf you’re not into DIY jewelry have you thought about making your own book collection?  Ever After Miniatures shop on Etsy has these amazing paper books available via pdf download. You would put together the books and the case!  These pieces would also look amazing in shadow boxes or paired within a larger art exhibit.


bookplateIf you want to create something directly for your book though look no further then to Martha Stewart’s amazing tutorials! (When I have a bad day at work it’s her site I go to unwind and rediscover the happy)  She had some book plate templates that are necessary to my library. These would also make an amazing birthday/shower/Christmas presents.  She provides some beautiful downloadable templates and you can experiment with different papers colors. Just remember to use acid free glue when placing them in your books.

Of course the best part of crafting is experimenting and making it all your own! Don’t be scared and push yourself each time you create!  Contact me via Twitter or Instagram with your results!  @decidedlyread

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women

I’m excited to reread this book over the weekend. I picked it up years ago after reading the review by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers in the Washington Times and it did not disappoint. (I actually liked Ms. Rodgers writing style in the review that I’ve reserved her own book at my local library) I’ve included the review for you all with a link to the site should you want to share it. And of course once you’ve read the book you should check out the PBS documentary. I was able to purchase it off iTunes for a raining evening.


“Every now and then, there appears a writer who has tracked a subject for so long through space and time that the resulting product ranks it superior to any of the facile interpretations or extended magazine articles that currently pass for biography.

Such is the case with Harriet Reisen, a writer of documentary scripts. For 20 years, she studied Louisa May Alcott’s life and work as she and Emmy-award winning producer Nancy Porter put together their film (airing on PBS’ “American Masters” on Dec. 28). Primary sources included studying Alcott’s journals (kept since age 8), letters and books; rescuing lost papers; interviewing scholars. Relentlessly, Ms. Reisen pursued Alcott’s physical trail. She visited New England locations. She examined Louisa’s writing desk, china and clothes at Orchard House in Concord, Mass., which the biographer said did much to bring to life the material and physical reality of Alcott’s life and times (furthering the case, I would add, of the need to preserve writers’ house museums). The result of this passionate pursuit is their documentary (already reaping top awards) and this magnificent new biography that I predict will become not only a best-seller but also a classic.

Many of us know Louisa May Alcott through “Little Women.” Since its publication in 1868, it has never been out of print. Translated into 50 languages, it has sold millions of copies, been adapted for stage, movie, television, opera and ballet. With a sure and steady hand, analytical but never heavy, Ms. Reisen weaves the context of Alcott’s life with her work, giving us an absorbing portrait of a defiant trailblazer whose intelligence burns on every page. Athletic and funny, fearless and cheerful, Louisa May Alcott was the family’s center.

She was the second of four daughters. Her father, Bronson (whose idealism matched his incompetence at earning money), was a key figure in New England’s Transcendentalist community. He taught his children how to have a social conscience. They shared his views on abolition, racial equality, intermarriage, vegetarianism, homoeopathic medicine and nature. Louisa’s mother, Abby, of Boston blueblood, was an early supporter of women’s suffrage. The family lived in poverty but their intellectual life was rich. Important mentors to Louisa included Mrs. John Brown, widow of the hanged leader of the raid on Harpers Ferry, Walt Whitman and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Close friend Ralph Waldo Emerson shared books from Bronson’s library; Henry David Thoreau taught Louisa botany.

“That the Alcotts were not like other people was a great part of their fascination for their neighbors and central to their image of themselves,” writes Ms. Reisen. As part of the Underground Railroad, the Alcotts hid fugitive slaves and taught them how to read. When Louisa was 10, her father tried communal living on a tract of land called “Fruitlands” (prompting one wag to call its members “fruitcakes”). When the experiment left the family destitute and the marriage in shambles, Louisa — very much like Jo March in “Little Women” — resolved to parlay her writing talent to become the family breadwinner.

Returning home to family and its pile of unpaid bills, Louisa toiled 14 hours a day with needlework, mainly cooking up stories “knocking at the saucepan lid to get out” in order to keep creditors at bay. Her secret literary life as the author of pulp fiction (written under a pseudonym), and how two modern literary sleuths uncovered Alcott’s identity, is truly fascinating. When an Atlantic magazine editor told Louisa she had no talent and should simply stick to teaching, she took his $40 and started a school of her own. It failed. (Later, flush with success, she repaid his loan, readers will yell.)

In 1863, at age 30, Louisa moved 500 miles from home to Washington to work as a nurse during the Civil War. In letters home, Louisa described caring for hundreds of soldiers, all in various stages of suffering, disease and death. The result was “Hospital Sketches,” published to acclaim. But typhoid pneumonia almost killed Louisa.

“Like making patchwork as Abby taught her in childhood,” writes Ms. Reisen, “Louisa went through her scrap bag of feelings, observations, and experiences, then selected and reorganized them to make stories.” Written in the space of weeks, “Little Women” sold in two parts, in 1868, then 1869. What she called “moral pap for the young” became an immediate best-seller, as did its sequels. At age 35, Louisa May Alcott achieved her childhood ambition: She earned the equivalent of today’s millions; her fame was such that at one point, it approached that of Mark Twain.

Generously, in spite of ill health (leading her to rely on opiates), Louisa continued to lovingly provide for her family, giving her sister the means in which to study art in Paris. With celebrity came the curious. For persistent callers, Louisa disguised herself as a maid, shaking a feather duster in the faces of her visitors, announcing Miss Alcott was not at home — before slamming the door.

Ms. Reisen is a master storyteller. Chapters are never formulaic. With compassion and insight, she propels readers on to the next adventure, sacrifice, tragedy and triumph. How Louisa died, the fate of her artistic sister, what became of niece “Lulu,” or what happened to that vast fortune Louisa worked so very, very hard to earn — that happy sense of discovery is your reward in reading this masterful work by this talented new biographer.”