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!

  1. Faith DuBois says:

    Whoa, Nellie – that’s impressive!

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Oh my gosh!! This is a work of art for sure. All of the details so perfectly recreated. It would be so hard to even cut the cake to eat. Who ever made this must be so proud!

  3. wow I’m impressed, I can barely ice a plain cake ! amazing!

  4. Eileen Stone says:

    I wonder how long it took to create. Was it created for eating or just for show? If the creator wants it to be eaten then somebody should have some. I wonder what flavor the cake inside is. If this cake is to be eaten the carving process & details should also be photographed.

  5. Nancy Coughlin says:

    Amazing! Lisa, I have trouble frosting a cupcake, so I am with you!

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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.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I think I heard about this man on NPR? Or maybe PBS? What an great piece of history he researched and recorded of our midwest at the turn of the 20th century. Later on today, I am going to sit and watch this clip you provided. For now, it is off to the airport again to take my husband. He has a “date” with impressionistic art in the Washington DC museums with his new snazzy camera that is designed for portrait work. He plans on re-photographing the collections of impressionism that he took some years ago with a less technical camera.

  2. calle says:

    My childhood was in Lincoln. I would imagine that my father who worked as a RR man, knew many of the family of those in the photographs.
    What a blessing Doug has been to many families.
    Hope they are indebted to his talents, caring and dogged pursuit of their heritage.
    Are they on display anywhere in Lincoln, or Omaha?
    Thank you for sharing.

  3. Cindi says:

    What an amazing treasure! There is a photo album that came from my grandmother’s house with pictures from the early 1900s that are like none I have ever seen from that time before. I think they may have been taken by a well known photographer in Humbolt County, California. It is fascinating ~ truly sad that so many treasured pictures like that end up in antique stores where they get passed over day after day. Antiques Roadshow will be here soon; maybe I should take mine in to see if they can help identify the photographer.

  4. Amazing documentary ! I enjoyed every minute of it. I had a dual major in college of African /Asian studies and these images would have been so wonderful to study . How refreshing that middle class Afro-Americans were living their lives so happily is seems from the photos. Being from the south, I never got to see those kinds of images of that period in time as most of the Black people when I grew up were so poor and still suffering from the legacy of the Civil War. I grew up in the still segregated south. How wonderful that the new National Museum of African American History and Culture is showing some of these splendid photos to everyone.

  5. Karlyne says:

    I got to spend a couple of days in Lincoln a few years ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! And this just adds to my good memories.

  6. Doug Keister says:

    Thank you all for your comments. The journey continues. Three years ago, Chico State (CSUC) mounted an exhibition of the photos. It was supposed to travel, but never got sufficient traction. However, a new effort is being launched to find the people and resources to make that happen. I’d also like to make a longer documentary which could include interviews with descendants of the people depicted in the photos, but I’m basically a one-man-band. Where’s Warren Buffet and Oprah when I need them?

    • Karlyne says:

      Hey! Isn’t Warren Buffet from Nebraska? I’ll check my phone list and get back to you… (I wish that I had that kind of phone list)

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Talk about junk!

If you’re a Raising Jane regular, you’ll remember that my magazine designer, Carol, has a new hobby: junk sculptures. Carol’s creations are little, anywhere from an inch to a foot high, keeping them small enough to glue together. But look what she discovered while trolling for inspiration on Pinterest.



According to, this baby is five times the size of a real elephant, weighs about 45 tons, and carries about 50 passengers at a time. It was created for “Machines of the Isle of Nantes,” a street performance festival in Nantes, France, from mostly recycled materials, and is fully articulated, moving with the help of 22 people who man hydraulics inside the statue. “The Great Elephant,” as he is called, can even trumpet like a real elephant, flap his ears, and spray water from his trunk. Watch him in motion:

  1. CJ Armstrong says:

    WOW! Pretty impressive! Carol dreaming of something on this scale ???

  2. Cindi Johnson says:

    Wow! Real live steampunk! Or Star Wars. A super sized robotics project at the very least.

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Humans of New York

Be it destiny or serendipity or simple coincidence, wonderful things can happen when strangers collide.

Are you familiar with Brandon Stanton, a photographer who walks the streets of New York with his camera in hand, asking complete strangers if he can take their pictures? Stanton posts the photos on his blog, Humans of New York, often with an accompanying story or quote from his subjects. He began what he refers to as his “photo census” back in 2010 as a way to capture and chronicle the neighborhoods of the city through the faces of the people who live there.


Along Brandon’s journey, he met Vidal Chastanet, an eighth-grade student at Mott Bridges Middle School in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville, whose image and accompanying story recently went viral on Stanton’s blog. The day they met, Brandon asked Vidal to share a story of a person who had influenced his life. He chose the principal of his middle school, Ms. Lopez, because of the great lengths she goes to ensure each child knows how much they matter.


Although Stanton usually tries to avoid becoming involved in the lives of his subjects, the response to the blog post was so great, he felt compelled to meet Ms. Lopez. And it just so happens that when he met her, Ms. Lopez was in the middle of a fundraising effort to send her sixth grade students to a summer program at Harvard. Because Brownsville has the highest crime rate in the city, and because the limited horizons of disadvantaged youth are always on her mind, Ms. Lopez chose Harvard to show her students (she refers to them as scholars) what it feels like to stand on the campus of one of the world’s greatest schools and know that they belong there. Brandon was so inspired by Ms. Lopez and her passionate ideas that he personally joined in the effort and launched a fundraiser on Indiegogo.

What transpired next is beyond inspiring!! People started sending in little bits of money. Lots of people. $1 million dollars was raised in five days, ensuring that for the next 25 years, Ms. Lopez’ sixth grade scholars will travel to Harvard.

All because two strangers happened to strike up a conversation on the street.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This is a wonderful story of art meeting the real trials of real people and making a difference. I love it!

  2. Cindi Johnson says:

    What a wonderfully inspiring story ~ yet I did not hear about it on the news. 🙂 They are a bit slow. Now I can’t wait to get off work so I can check out that link and all of the pictures!

  3. What a wonderfully heart warming and life affirming story. thanks for sharing this. I looked at the website and it was amazing.

  4. Molly Welsh says:

    This needs to be told to EVERYONE WHO SAYS “but just one person does not matter”.

    One person, every person, matters.

    Thank you, again!

  5. Karen(old cowgirl) Montoya says:

    Thank you for broadening my Horizons. it is so nice to hear of someone who has made a difference in a child’s life or anyone’s life. The photographer, the principal, and the young man need lots of applause for what they believe in and who they believe in. That is what making a difference is all about.

  6. Nancy Coughlin says:

    I have been following these photos and stories on Facebook and it has been a marvelous read. Yes indeed, one person can make a difference, even if it is a small difference. So many of us get bogged down because we don’t see what the difference is that we make. We should never stop trying. Many years ago I decided that I had hopes that the people who I passed by throughout my life were affected positively by their relationship with me. It didn’t matter if the time was for moments, days, weeks, etc. I pray that whatever the time, the effect was positive. Can we hope for any more?

    • MaryJane says:

      Nancy, your upbeat comments on our posts have impacted me and my daughter in a positive way and I thank you for that. Definitely, your goal has been accomplished here!

  7. Pingback: GIVEAWAY: Humans of New York Stories | Raising Jane Journal

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