Monthly Archives: February 2015



mind lit


Image by Karel Jules Hugo Waignein via Wikimedia Commons

Hard to look away, isn’t it?

This adorable little Jane’s portrait, artfully rendered, sends our brains reeling—what’s her story?

The gaudy floral hat and bright face paint belie the wistfulness of her eyes—what’s going on in there?

As it turns out, your interpretation of her facial expression may be linked to the books you read.

Curious? Read on …

A 2013 study, published by researchers from The New School for Social Research in New York City, found that the ability to identify the emotions of others correlates with a reader’s literary choices.


Photo courtesy of the National Media Museum via Wikimedia Commons

“Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies,” the study’s abstract begins. “Yet little research has investigated what fosters this skill, which is known as Theory of Mind.”

The study’s 1,000 participants were divided into two groups: one read literary fiction (like Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife), and the other read popular fiction (think Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl). After reading, all were asked to identify someone’s emotions using facial cues. Those who read literary fiction scored consistently higher by about 10 percent.


“We believe that one critical difference between lit and pop fiction is the extent to which the characters are complex, ambiguous, difficult to get to know, etc. (in other words, human) versus stereotyped, simple,” Emanuele Castano, one of the researchers, explained to

So … having trouble understanding the feelings of your coworkers, or maybe even your spouse?

Try tackling Chekhov in your spare time.




Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Shannon Hudson!!!

Shannon Hudson (#5349) has received a certificate of achievement in Each Other for earning a Beginner Level Farmgirl Jubilee Merit Badge!

“Definition of jubilee: the celebration of any certain anniversaries, such as the 25th, 50th, 75th, etc., or the completion of 50 years of existence (

– Special jubilee I attended: My 4 siblings and I threw a jubilee for my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary. We invited folks they had not seen in YEARS, along with relatives that we do not see very often (my mom’s side of the family is Old Order Amish and some of them even came!). Somehow, we kept it a secret, though we were all quite young … my older sister was 24, I was 19, my younger sister 17, and my brothers were 15 and 11! It was a great celebration complete with lots of food and even more love and laughter.

– British Diamond Jubilee for Queen Elizabeth (Wiki Link)

Imagine ascending into power 60 years ago. Would you want to celebrate? Would you feel blessed to have been in such a position for such a period of time? Surely Queen Elizabeth II had much to celebrate in 2014, as only the second British monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee. (The first was Queen Victoria in 1897).

Queen Elizabeth II had two guidelines for her jubilee. The first was that the public was not to pay a large amount for the celebration. In fact, she wanted public funds to be as minimal as possible. The second requirement was that the people were not to be forced to celebrate her. If they wanted to, they were certainly welcomed to, but the public was not to be forced.

The celebration was embraced by many, and was celebrated in numerous ways. Considering the vast amount of countries visited by the Queen, along with her love for horses, a show was produced. The show included over 500 horses and over 1,000 performers from various countries. There were also lunches throughout the area, not all of which the Queen attended, but they were in her honor, nonetheless. There were also a “Google Doodle,” a maritime parade, and numerous other celebrations. One of the neatest things was the lighting of beacons throughout the world!

I can only imagine how humbling the experience must have been for Queen Elizabeth II. The love of the people for her really showed through. I wonder if she had ever imagined how the people would react and celebrate her reign!?!?

– Ideas shared with other farmgirls online: make an apron, have an outside celebration with MaryJane’s recipes, work in the garden and beautify outside, and invite others to join our celebration.

I understand what our Jubilee is about now, and am able to embrace the idea. I am looking forward to seeing how the Jubilee takes shape, not just here at my own home, but across our nation!”



stir up a Singer

Look what we found on Facebook! Jubly-Umph posted this photo of an amazing Singer sewing machine … cake.

photo from Jubly-Umph

Looks like even the notions are edible. Now that’s one way to stitch your cares away!



GIVEAWAY: One World Family Calendar

I recently picked up two of these handy “family calendars” with the intent of gifting one. Plus, I wanted to support the organization behind it. The One World Family Calendar features beautiful photography of people from around the world, along with space for daily schedules for up to five people. It’s a beautiful calendar that will help you plan the rest of your family’s year.


This calendar comes from the New Internationalist: People, Ideas, and Action for Global Justice.

With new technologies, the whole wide world is at our fingertips, and we can help those in other countries as well as our own by shopping with a global responsibility in mind. And if you don’t think you support buying things from overseas, take a closer look around … that melon purchased in December probably came from South America, and that cell phone positively came from the other side of the globe. And wait … before venting about buying American-made, please realize that it’s an opinion typed on a computer that was most certainly made in China, Japan, or Taiwan. Sorry, Dorothy, but we’re not in Kansas anymore. We’re all part of a bigger picture, and that picture involves supporting workers around the world—not governments, but workers, people like you and me. So my stand is, I support workers, wherever they happen to live. Made in the USA, awesome. Project F.A.R.M. (First-class American Rural Made), love it. And yes, Made in the World. For me, they’re no longer mutually exclusive.

To win this beautiful calendar, tell me why you’ve decided to embrace the whole wide world and ALL the working people in it. We’ll put your name in a hat and pull out one lucky winner sometime in the next week or so. Stay tuned!



Shadows on Glass

Imagine going to an antique store and purchasing a box of old photographs, then spending the next 50 years trying to figure out who the photographer and the people depicted in the photographs were.

Douglas Keister, photographer and author of 42 critically acclaimed books, did just that. I first met Doug when I asked to use a couple of his photos in my third book, MaryJane’s Outpost. Doug had just published one of my favorite books about travel trailers, Teardrops and Tiny Trailers, with Gibbs Smith (also my publisher for Glamping with MaryJane and Milk Cow Kitchen).

In 1965, Doug was a junior in high school in Lincoln, Nebraska, and already a budding photographer. He acquired a stack of 280 black and white 5×7 glass negatives from a friend who had run an ad looking for area antiques. Doug proceeded to set up a makeshift darkroom in his parents’ basement to develop and print the negatives. He discovered an important part of history when he saw that most of the photographs were portraits of African Americans in the early part of the 20th century.

“Five decades of research finally revealed that the photographs were taken by an African American photographer a century ago in Lincoln, Nebraska. The variety of images reveals a vibrant community and, more importantly, an ennobled and hopeful African American population,” says Doug. The importance of these images has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture, which now has 60 prints from the negatives in its permanent collection.

Doug has made a 25-minute video, Shadows on Glass, about his discoveries that shows many of the photographs, fills in the blanks about their origins, and paints a fascinating picture of the lives of the African American community in Lincoln 100 years ago.