A Union and Confederate Love Story


The Notorious Mrs. Winston. I just put it down. And when I did, I was sad that it was over. It has been a long time since a novel has swept me away so hard. Written by, Mary Mackey this really is a Union and Confederate love story. But it is so much more.


A Union and Confederate Love Story
The Notorious Mrs. Winstons

How did I get caught up in a true love story when I am turned off  by even the cover of a “romance book?” Traditional romance books plaster the walls in new book stores and the ones in the used book stores all look like they have been read a 100 times. I mean how would you even choose one, the covers are all so similar? I don’t know. And in all fairness;  I’ve never actually read one. In our town when people take them to the used book store they usually have a giant paper bag filled to the top. Millions of people love them And if you are one of them,  I found something you might need to treat yourself to this summer  for reading by the pool…

summer reading gift
Trashy Romance Chapstick BookishSerendipityCo

All that being said about romance books, I was really surprised how much I loved this one! It is action packed, sexy  and romantic. A Union and Confederate love story.

So let’s get to it. What I loved about this book:

Claire, a strong female character leads the charge of this book. She is beautiful, tough, clever and brave. Claire is also rebellious. She dressed as a male confederate soldier during a huge bloody battle. But it was all in the name of getting her man, John who was handsome, loyal and such a good love talker and maker. I was cheering for them the whole way through. There was also adultery, which I don’t usually  find myself applauding; but Claire was abandoning her husband Henry. In many ways he had abandoned her first by never even taking her to bed.  Henry is an odd and weak  little man and is a background parallel to the story. With genius writing the thorniness of  his presence still adds as much tension as the Civil War taking place between the union and confederate army.


Vintage Civil War


And about Claire being brave, how many women have  you heard of that dressed as men during the civil war to fight for the cause? I admit I needed to suspend my disbelief a wee bit. But honestly, the descriptive and beautiful writing had me so swept up, I didn’t care. And in actuality, there were women that posed as men during the civil war.
Woman Dressed as man during Union and Confederate Civil War
And here is the actual General, John Hunt Morgan depicted in the novel that Claire and John fought side by side with as Confederate Raiders in the book:
Union and Confederate Civil War General
John Hunt Morgan
Something else that intrigued me early in the book was the fact that her husband was an “art” photographer. I say, “art,” because deeper into the book it becomes obvious that his muse may not have been just pursuance of art but more a perversion. He used a large format camera and of course was shooting black and white. It’s intriguing to me because this is how I started as a photographer. Anytime there is descriptive imagery about photography, I am hooked. Below is Edward Weston , master photographer and the first of his kind with the style of still life photograph’s that he made. Some thought were made to look like more than fruit or veggies!
Black and White Master Photographer
Edward Weston
I get excited and inspired just by the mention of some of their names. Most importantly, my dear friend and mentor who has since passed, Jack Welpott. And all the names that come to mind along with his:
Imogen Cunningham, Ruth Bernhard, Edward Weston and so many more. And as I write this and have been searching for some change, I realize how much my heart is beating wildly to get my film camera out.
I am no expert on the Civil War between the Union and Confederate armies. But I can tell you Mary Mackey knows her stuff and she  will transport you with a vibrant and vivid view. And I am thrilled to find out, she has many more books I can add to my list, including The Widow’s War.

Fragrant Memories


Without thinking about, “what is your favorite smell,” What is the first one that enters your mind? Now close your eyes and what’s the first picture that come to you when you think of that scent? Is it something edible? If so, I bet it is something you love to eat. I bet it is something special. Maybe it is something your mom always made or you tasted in a special place. I think of these as fragrant memories.

Some of my favorite smells, my fragrant memories  are: freshly bathed babies, jasmine flowers, dark chocolate and coffee beans.


My Favorite Scents


Why are these my fragrant memories? Freshly bathed babies of course bring back the memory of my own baby’s. The scent brings back the softness of their skin, their round cheeks, chubby legs and moments in time where all that mattered was being present in the moment and looking into their eyes while bathing them. It also makes me remember pajamas with feet and bedtime stories with a kiss goodnight.

Jasmine flower’s bloomed outside my window when I was a child and our family lived in Indiantown, Fl. The smell reminds me of long summer days where I played hard outside with friends and then went to bed with the windows open.

Dark chocolate and coffee beans are both so rich and decadent. They invigorate me and give me a sense of energy. Dark chocolate and coffee are both things I discovered with my husband. They are something we have loved throughout our relationship. At one point we ground our own beans and we still enjoy breaking chocolate off of a brick before bed.

Kona Coffee Puna Cocoa Nibs-Dark Chocolate Bar – 100% Hawaiian Cacao

What is your favorite fragrant memory? Lots of things smell good to me. The salty air at the ocean, the fresh earth and pine in the forest, cocoa butter in sunscreen and play doh. And I could give you a reason why for each.

Why does aroma work so well to preserve memories? Scent is one of our 5 senses. Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch and Taste are all gifts from God. But the Ol Factory has been proven to produce stronger emotions with memory that sight or sound.

Intentional or not, we are creating memories. And while we have the ability to hold on a preserve precious moments through great smells, there is a downside. The same ability to recall happiness and joy through smell, is also true for sadness and trauma. I know there are a few scents from my life that I would rather not smell again. It’s not because they were gross or disgusting. These “auras’s,” just happened to be present during a bad moment.

This really does give us reason to, “Stop and Smell the Roses.”

fragrant memories - rose flowers - bleeding hearts
Shabby Chic Pink Roses Photography

What’s your fragrant memory? I would love to hear it.

Drinking and Collecting 80’s Style


One of the coolest things I remember as a kid about eating out in the 70’s and 80’s were the novelty gifts you could collect. We didn’t eat a lot of fast food when I was little, but when we did, I loved getting a Happy Meal. I remember one Happy Meal container in particular that was green, plastic and round like a space ship. It came with the decals to stick on and decorate yourself. My sister and I set it up for my hamster, Dolly Dimples to play in.

80's novelty
Vintage McDonald’s Spaceship Happy Meal

Looking back I guess we were more of a McDonald’s family when we did eat out because we also had a full set of melmac dishes with Ronald, Grimace and the rest of the gang for the 4 seasons.

Retro Happy Meal Novelty
Vintage McDonald’s Plate 1970s

As an adult I find myself being completely giddy when I find the collectible drinking glasses from the 80’s. The vibrant colors of the cartoon characters always make me smile. A few years back I found a pair of vintage Miss Piggy drinking glasses that I bought for my vintage shop. While they are cute to look at, if you were growing up in that time, they bring back happy memories. Memories of Saturday mornings and simpler  times when cartoons were made for kids!

Muppets Drinking Glass
Vintage Miss Piggy Glasses

And thankfully, some people kept these delightful retro pieces just to look at. Myself, I enjoyed and continue to enjoy using mine.

My sister was a big Care Bear fan and I am sure she would have wanted these if we would have had a Pizza Hut near us.

80's Retro Drinking Glass
Vintage Care Bear Glasses

This is one retro novelty glass that if I ever come across will be all mine. I know it sounds selfish, but IT’S PAC-MAN~

80's novelty
Pac-Man Collectible Drinking Glass

Here is a little round-up in case you are searching for something special:

Thats So 80's



Goulash or Galoshes


Goulash or Galoshes? Have you had either?  I’ve experienced both. To me, the only thing they have in common is the fun swishy sound they make when the words come off the tongue.

Goulash is something my mom cooked often for us growing up. I like it best on chilly nights. It is a comfort food that can go a long way, is affordable and is also a great dish to take to a family in need of a meal. I will share a recipe at the bottom. But this post is about the other swish – the one made with rubber and not noodles.

As a child in the 70’s, I remember one pair of galoshes. They were a kid friendly color, although I can’t remember which one. There was a fun stretchy band that hooked the front closed. We live in Pennsylvania and so I honestly can’t remember if I was wearing them in the spring for rain, or if we were keeping my shoes dry in the snow.

Recently a favorite shopping spot for me, the Nomadic Trading Company, which is actually a large warehouse with antiques, vintage items and salvaged pieces brought in hundreds of pairs of vintage, new in the box Shoes. I bought a few pair for fun to add to my vintage shop. But the pair that caught my eye were called Rubbers! I had never heard that term for shoes and had never seen shoe rubbers that were so styled.

And so, here is my little collection of these shoe covers through out the years.

1940's Galoshes



1960's Galoshes1940’s Galoshes by mollysmuses featuring black strap shoes
So now you know how you can slick up your rainy day fashion with new or vintage galoshes, over shoes, rain boots or rubbers.
And as promised… a goulash recipe. This recipe is very similar to mine, however, I do not add the canned tomatoes and I add bell pepper.
American Goulash


Onion Snow – What’s That?


Looking out my window yesterday, there was no doubt how the expression, “April showers bring May flowers,” came about.  But there is another expression that you may not be privy to if you have never lived in Pennsylvania.   “Onion Snow,” is a term created by the Pennsylvania Dutch. This sounds like something from Shrek, but it actually dates back to the earliest Farmers Almanac’s. And it is true to its name.

Onion Snow

The birds were chirping and the crocus were popping. But today, SNOW and even a tiny burst of hail. I am sure there is a scientific reason why the onion snow is a good thing. Do the robin’s find humor in it?

I am thinking probably not. The photo below looks like winter, but the robin tells the story, it was spring!

onion snow spring bird
Robin on Snowy Branch Photograph by MollysMuses

We have had Easter’s where our the girls have been in pretty sundresses with spaghetti sleeves. And we have had egg hunts in snow boots. Perhaps this year it will be Easter dresses, since the onion snow is happening over Palm Sunday weekend.

The Triumphal Entry Jesus on Palm Sunday Painting

If there weren’t a reason for the snow to fall in the spring, it probably would not happen every year. So I looked to see what I could find. The onion snow is also referred to by the Dutch as, “sapling blenders.”

This late in spring snow is said to make the sap flow longer from the trees, giving is more syrup and deliciousness. Maybe this is a fair trade-off, it is only 1 onion snow per year. But who really knows which snow is the final? I am hoping today is “the” onion snow.

Looking some traditional ways to greet spring and Easter this year?




Pack a Punch with Pansies


Sometimes the tiniest things pack the biggest punch. The Taco Bell Chihuahua,  Minions, Reaper Peppers and Sour Candy are just a few well-known power puncher’s that enter my mind.Little Things Pack a BIG Punch


But, how about something natural that packs just as big a punch, but in a more subtle way? Maybe even something that causes pause when seen and stir’s the heart when read about. There is such a thing and it is the pansy. Soon they will be popping up in stores, along sidewalks, in window boxes and inside beautiful pots. They are tiny, soft, delicate little flowers with brilliantly painted vivid colors of purple and yellow.
pansy flower
Hand Beaded Pansy Flower Brooch by: BeadifulByJill

What is it about these tiny but mighty little flowers? They are everywhere, not just in your flower garden or in a pot; they are in fashion, home decor and even in dessert.


Head To Toe Pansies

Pansies have been romanticized, written about and visualized for years. Margaret Mitchell, Nathaniel Hawthorne and even Shakespeare made reference to this lovely little flower. Master painters including Van Gogh and  Georgia O’Keeffe have had them sit as their subject. And we cannot forget Alice,  one of my all time favorite characters, as she danced around and sang “All in the Golden Afternoon.” Their very name means, “thought,” or “free thinker.”  And I love learning that about the pansy because it is now perfectly clear to me why Alice, while being in a huge flower garden, would be with them.

Now that pansy season is coming, how will you incorporate them into your lifestyle? Maybe you will keep your hands out of the dirt and invest in some wall art featuring their beautiful petals for a pop of color in your space, or deck yourself out from head to toe, with some of the fashion suggestions above. Those are all fun ideas. But if you do decide to grow some of these flowers, here are some things you can do with them,

Make and Bake some beautiful cookies and indulge in their blossoms:

pansy cookie recipe
Edible Pansies Cookie

Or make a gorgeous ice ring to bring to the next baby or bridal shower:

pansies flowers edible
Pansy Flower Ice Ring

Despite how awesome they are, pansies are easy to grow. They don’t cave easily to insect and bad soil. But you must remember to water them regularly. And at the end of the season, maybe save a few to press in a poetry book for someone else to discover years down the road.

pansies flower
Pressed Vintage Flowers

Ans P.S. if you hear someone call them Johnny Jump Ups, yep, that’s right to. Those are the wild sort.

March Madness Gift Guide


March Madness, Sweet 16, Final Four or The Big Dance? If you feel like you are jumping through hoops to figure it all out; relax this all began in a more simple way than you might imagine.  “March Madness,” made it’s first appearance as a print article in Illinois when writer, Henry V. Porter, penned the term for a state-wide high school basketball tournament. He wrote: “A little March madness may complement and contribute to sanity and help keep society on an even keel.”  Three years later, he followed up with a poem, “Basketball Ides of March,” which read in part: “A sharp-shooting mite is king tonight/ The Madness of March is running.”

March Madness


In the 80’s these terms, including March Madness, once designated for a much smaller scale, grew up and developed a life of their own. And it continues to grow.

Why do I care? I don’t play basketball and I don’t even watch it on t.v.

But, when I was in 1st grade, I won my first blue ribbon. It was for shooting a basketball into a hoop on field day. That was a long time ago, 1979,  at Jupiter Christian School in Jupiter, Florida. Not just an accomplishment because I was a petite first grader who had never shot a hoop, but also because I was a little girl who had to wear a dress to just above the knee and panty-hose. I was pretty impressed with myself. I may even have that little ribbon somewhere in my parent’s attic.

march madness gift guide basketball
Vintage 70’s Basketball Patch by MagellansBellyStudio

And there you have the full extent of my love for the game.  BUT, for some reason over the years I have been inspired to make photographs of  local hoops and courts. There is something so beautiful and simple about a hoop hung onto a garage or standing alone at an old park where everything else is outdated or gone. A hoop and a ball lead to countless hours of entertainment for 1 person, a handful or even a dozen at a time, who come to  hang out and play.

Last year I was so surprised when the trendy basketball show, Survivor’s Remorse, chose my image, Fall on Court, for use on their season 3 set.  Because it was part of the show, I think it is a great addition to the March Madness gift guide.

Fall on Court Large Print by MollysMuses



Basketball Art Photography Prints

by MollysMuses


And since March Madness dates back to 1908, I thought the March Madness Gift Guide should sport some vintage basketball from over the years.

March Madness Gift Guide


Not a basketball player and want to be a little more, “In the know?” Go down to your local park and join a pick up game.

A basketball pick-up game is started with little or no planning. Players might be invited ahead of time, but passer’s by can also join in. The rules are not strict, the game is for fun. Usually there are no referees, they are less structured and for “FUN.”

If You Give the Pig a Day


Happy Pig Day!  While in kindergarten, our  bus driver stopped at his farm on the way to school and allowed us to see the baby pigs and their mom in the barn. That is my first Pig memory.

Did you even know National Pig Day existed? It does and it  falls on March 1 every year.


National Pig Day in top hat
Vintage Piggy Bank Figurine

So, bacon not included, how many famous or popular pigs can you think of?  The first one on my list is the little girl pig from the children’s book, “If you give a pig a pancake.” I really enjoyed reading this to our kids when they were small

National Pig Day Book
If you Give a Pig A Pancake – Felt Pancake Set from TandeFarmersMarket

There is something so sweet and funny about a pig being able to dance and frolic gracefully on her hooves. The piggy in, “If you Give a Pig A Pancake,” does that well in her birthday suit; something Olivia Pig would never consider. Olivia is a refined pig always dressed in her signature color, red! And she was a favorite of our daughter’s and started the on going question in our home, “MOM, can I have a pig?”

Next, I thought of  Charlotte’s Web and WILBUR! Ahhhh dear dear Wilbur. He really was Some Pig. And he might have been the most famous pig ever. In fact Wilbur  paved the way for BABE, who I must admit, I was never a fan of.

Wilbur National Pig
Charlotte’s Web

And the Trendiest pig around, an Actual Pig, now turned into a “character,” Chris P Bacon on Wheels. This pig is a survivor, he has his own Facebook page and his very own book!

Famous National Pig
Chris P Bacon My Life So Far

The last famous pig I have to mention was the beginning and the center of one of the most Infamous fights ever. The Hatfields and McCoys began their feud over a pig that was or was not stolen, (depending whose side you are on.)  There was a trial that took place in a cabin. I don’t have a photo of the famous swine, but I do have a photograph of the cabin that I took while traveling the Hatfield McCoy geo-trail.

Hatfield McCoy Pig Trial Cabin Art Photography Print – MollysMuses


Hopefully this post gives you some inspiration to celebrate National Pig Day 2017.  Curl up with a nice book or your famout PIG  movie.

And if you need a themed snack to go with it, how about some chocolate covered bacon…. SWAP for Turkey of course!

National Pig Day
Chocolate Covered Bacon Recipe

According to the National Holiday blog, “the day was created in 1972 by two sisters, Ellen Stanley and Mary Lynne Rave.  Ellen was a school teacher in Lubbock, Texas and Mary was from Beaufort, North Carolina.  According to Mary Lynne Rave, the purpose of National Pig Day is “to accord the pig its rightful, though generally unrecognized, place as one of man’s most intellectual and domesticated animals.”

Extra Special with Vintage Annalee


My aunt has a flair for decorating and if I were to sum up her style in one word it would be, “special.”  Her sister owned a Hallmark shop in a very tiny town and sold what are now, Vintage Annalee dolls. These little dolls could be found all over the home for every season. In her collection, there was such a large variety of characters and sizes. There were small ones that sat on table tops, tiny ones that could suspend in air and even larger ones like the life-size reindeer that are still placed around the home in winter. These are my favorite.  The old vintage Annalee dolls have become a family tradition. And now, the  grand children are growing up, enjoying these kitschy whimsical characters.

In today’s world,  Annalee dolls can be found in lots of places including big box stores. They are made in China and I assume made quickly for mass and cheap production.  The little faces are still adorable and look cute sitting around the house, but for me, it’s just not the same.

So let’s look at a little history  of the Annalee dolls and why the vintage ones, like my aunt’s decorating are more special.

Vintage Annalee Doll being created by none other than Annalee herself

Like so many success stories, the Annalee company started out of necessity. These sweet-faced dolls were created by Annalee Thorndike, during the depression. As a teenager, she loved to make dolls, but it was a hobby that she had let go. She didn’t pick doll making back up again until the family farm was failing.  The doll making became a family business.  This crafty home based business model was cutting edge at the time.  It has since become a beautiful back bone to small business in America.

There were 3 important ingredients that blended perfectly to build this unique and wonderful story: need, passion and talent. All 3 being equally important, makes me wonder if the farm would have succeeded would Annalee have ever gone back to the “making process?” And if she did, would they have become such a hit?


Annalee Thorndike’s family with their handmade vintage Annalee Dolls

Learning that much of the doll making process was done in an old chicken coop on the farm, warms my heart.  You can see the inspiration and love of the farm animals in many of her creations. And if you look at the dolls, some look like they have attitudes or a mischievous expression; and some have angelic smiles. I am sure her own children’s personalities and moods were in many of the hand painted faces.

1965 annalee bunny boy girl doll
1960’s Vintage Annalee Rabbit Farmer Dolls


Mice became a muse for the company in the 70’s. When my grandma down sized, she gave me her small collection of 3 mice. There is a tennis player, a baby in a diaper and a little lady holding a pot of flowers. The mice are worn and old but I enjoy them.

annalee tenniss mice doll 70's
Vintage Annalee Tennis Mouse

Hopefully you can see why I have a love for the older dolls.  In a world where everything is stamped out in mass quantity overseas, the Vintage Annalee Dolls were literally created by the hand’s of a family sitting around the table. Even if the older ones are a little tattered or their outfits have faded over time, the story, the memory and the love that created them make them more appealing. These little guys and girls have a family history, they have roots, they are an example of The American Dream.


Here are some Spring Time Vintage Annalee Dolls I have rounded up for you to start your collection.

Vintage Annalee Dolls for spring

From Left to right: Vintage Farmer Rabbit Dolls, Spring Pixie, and Blue Boy Girl Easter Bunny Annalee Dolls

Vintage Annalee Rabbit Dolls for Spring and Easter

From Left to Right: Vintage Annalee Bunny Doll, Pink Mobilitee Annalee, Boy Girl Easter Bunny Mobilitee, Bottom Right is no longer available.

If you are a maker, who is not, “making money” at your craft right now or yet, I hope you keep going.  The world might miss out if you stop. Not everyone will have such major or as we call it now, viral success. But if you have something special to share with the world don’t stop.


The Choice – Og Mandino – Be Inspired


I savor inspiration when it comes my way. I think to be inspired is sort of natural high for us as humans. I find inspiration in so many places. Nature, music, books, people, conversation and prayer are some of the first places I look to  find inspiration. The forest and its fragrance are something that inspire me.

rustic, woodland art home decor
Little Pink Trailer in the Forest MollysMuses

Years ago I read The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino. It is a very short but epic book. Mandino is well-known for writing books about being inspired, successful and happy.  While thrift shopping a few weeks back I came across, The Choice, also by Mandino.

While reading The Choice, I felt convicted about my time and how I Choose to spend it. My  husband’s favorite author,  Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.”

Let that sink in. Does what you do really matter or make you happy? I have been pondering that a lot lately.

Forever Young, Bob Dylan lyrics Shellieartist

In the book, Mark is a young father and husband who climbed the corporate ladder successfully, fast and strong.

Mark realized  he was missing precious time. One of the big ones, he missed seeing his son pitch his first no-hitter.

When we are the super stars at work that the boss depends on, there is a price to pay. The same goes for being the over spent volunteer, coach, tireless artist and of course the stay at home mom who feels like she needs to be superwoman to add up. It feels almost unfair that if one thing is going Amazing; chances are something else is suffering. Having it all… what does that even mean?  At this point in my life I have changed my definition. I think to have it all is to find balance among all of the things that are important to me. It forms a perfect circle. The hard part is then being able to drop the things that are not.

We think our kids want stuff. And they do. But if we dig deeper,  what the people we love really crave and need is  TIME.  Time cannot be bought.  Time cannot be returned and time cannot be redone.  The moment is the moment. We try to manipulate time. But as the saying goes, “it is what it is.” You are either present or you aren’t.

time, be present
Vintage Seth Thomas Carriage Clock

Mark was inspired, by what my friends and I like to call a “God moment.” His son ran down the driveway to embrace him on Father’s Day as he was leaving to golf with work buddies.  Right then and there, his life would change forever.  He made a choice to put what really mattered first. He chose to leave the corporate world completely. What did he decide to do instead? Become a writer of course;)

His family embraced the change and moved to a property with a lighthouse. This  lighthouse becomes a background for the writing in the story.

LightHouse Art Print by NicoleFPhotography

Mark’s book is written in the lighthouse and typed on an old Underwood typewriter left by the previous author;  a beautifully interwoven piece to the story.

The book Mark writes, is about living a successful life and it takes off an incredible journey straight to the top. He is once again at the top of his game. And there are some struggles that come along with it.

This book was written in 1984 and there is a story within a story. It is a mystery of sorts and in the beginning really had an old school Scooby Doo vibe. I don’t believe that was his intention. It might just be part of my childhood amusing me while reading. There was No Mystery Bus!  But this mystery takes a turn in style,  almost a premonition to the writing style  of, “The Shack,” which will soon be a movie.  The shack is an excellent book and if I may suggest, Please read it before the movie comes out.

Mark is given a profound choice to make and he does. I won’t divulge that here. I will say  this, I think most people will initially  think the title of this book was based on, “The Choice,” he is given in the mystery part of the book.  I don’t agree.

I believe the greatest choice, the hardest choice was  the one Mark made  in the beginning when he listened to his heart and dumped the corporate world to live a life of meaning beyond just money.

A definite worth while read.

Dale Carnegie, Og Mandino, Vintage Books Psychology
Vintage Self Help Get Inspired Books