Journaling Life: Little Women Edition

 

In all its glory: A packet full of goodness, spread out like a feast.
Our updated bookcase: Two special new editions of Little Women adorn a shelf of other classics we have collected.

A week ago today my son and I went to watch Little Women, a movie whose book I’d never read save for excerpts in elementary school primers. I’d never pursued it further, and as for the why, I’ll get more into that in a future post. For now, suffice to say there are so many reasons to love the movie, which I have now watched twice (the book I am still reading), and the craft within is one of them. Marmie, Jo, Beth, Amy and Meg create much, and these items are not only meaningful and discussed, but also utilized in activities that bring them together, as a family and within their community, something sadly absent in much of today’s world of mass- and commercially-manufactured goods.

With this re-appearance of Little Women, two paths came together in my world: the re-stirrings of creative instinct and Louisa May Alcott’s story of four sisters who have captured my  heart. An online friend and I had been discussing crafting over the last couple of months, and last week I received a packet of items from her to help me get my kit going at a bit of a fuller speed. On Thursday evening I was literally sorting through her wonderful items just minutes before my boy and I were about to dash out the door for my second round of the film (his third).

There may be a dye bath in this material’s future.

In the days since then I’ve developed a minor obsession with the tale—again, more for another post—and ideas related to the March girls passed through my head as the materials caressed my fingers. I recalled my mother sewing wee clothes for my dolls, and I contemplated a shawl from some gauzy fabric for a little Jo, or perhaps Meg. Might I start a small doll collection now? Would I be able to use some of this material for their 1860s clothing, which I love so much? (Except the hoop skirts, a dreadful fashion mistake.) I’m not exactly sure at this point where I’ll go with some items or ideas, but it’s fun to comb through the treasure trove as I brainstorm possibilities.

Have a look at some images from my haul and ideas as they begin to develop ~

From far end of table seen in the first image above

Some of these items appear to be or are pretty fancy, but many of these types of things can be created with your own hand, especially if you are decent at drawing. If you’re not, you can still make beautiful items that Amy March would adore, using stencils, stick- and sew-ons, water colors and more.

I adore the old-world feel of the products advertised on so many of the labels I’d seen on vintage brands, if only in pictures online. Sometimes I wonder that to antebellum or later Victorian eyes, these labels seemed quite modern,  especially with their arching fonts or, as with the letter C in the image below, a swooping, sweeping stroke.

I am certain today’s manufacturers are quite aware of our affinity for such reminders of the world our ancestors inhabited, and make good use of their knowledge.  I shan’t name any names, but there are those amongst us who purchase some items simply for the label appeal: the faraway-ness of the times in which these labels originated made way for their descendants, simultaneously bearing that same distant feel yet striking familiarity.

Beautiful flowers to adorn nearly any idea a journaling artist could come up with. These are manufactured but can also easily be made with tissue paper or even napkins, as in the absolutely gorgeous junk journal’s opening pages at the link (click image)
Wouldn’t this make a pretty tablecloth? Beth would surely love to feed her doll at such a lovely setup.
Steam punk! These itty bitty spools, clothes pins, what look like the innards of a clock and more give off an old feel, transporting our imaginations in time. One could probably even do spirograph-type imaging with these small, circular pieces, resulting in pictures that illustrate what we’ve learned about the historical eras on our minds.

Join us going forward with this new series exploring various types of journaling and the creativity one can bring to it, using items such as the above or with simple things one might ordinarily toss or recycle. Inspirations are endless and can come from literature, science, history, geography, film, travel, nature, industry, fashion, memoir, food, the animal world or any theme you can possibly come up with.

How could I forget!? A very special thanks to Stephanie for all the wonderful trinkets and treasures! Have a  look at her website for more, right here!

Additional Note: Oopsie! I’ve come back in and cleaned up a few editing errors I discovered upon subsequent reads. 

Avengers Anticipation

Turtle’s ranking of the MCU films 

Opens Friday, April 27! Yay!

So, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) turns ten years old this year. For a decade Marvel has been popping out movie after movie. None of them are great cinematic masterpieces that should win Best Picture, but are a lot of fun, quality movies that are sometimes pretty great. All have individually surpassed the $100 million line at the box office, but not all have been critically acclaimed. With Infinity War coming out in less than three weeks (18 days at the time this publishes; see trailer below), this is a great moment to rank all of the films released up until this point and a perfect moment to start an MCU binge (watch one movie a day from Iron Man to Black Panther). Without further ado, here is my ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

18) The Incredible Hulk (2008)

This movie is not terrible, it has some okay acting from Norton and a few good shots, but I don’t think it is controversial to call this the worst MCU movie. If you watch this as a standalone superhero flick, you can maybe enjoy parts but if you watch it as an MCU movie it is rather hard to sit through. The slow pacing, dull action, and poor CGI make this seem more like a DC movie and left a sour taste in my mouth when I saw it.

Rotten Tomato Score (RT): 67%
My Score: 63%*

17) Thor: The Dark World (2014)

To be honest, I remember very little of this movie because I might have fallen asleep on first watch. I saw it again and found it extremely underwhelming; it left me bored. I have very little to say about this, but I will say it has a few redeeming parts like Hemsworth’s unique charm and a few cool action bits, but overall, I found it very lackluster, just like its villain, whose name I can’t even remember.

RT: 66%
Me: 65%

16) Thor (2011)

Just like its sequel, this movie is littered with scenes that have slipped my mind completely. This origin story is so mind-numbingly dull that the most stand-out scene, Thor in the restaurant, is not even as good as the worst scene in other movies on this list. OK, OK, it’s no so bad; it does have a good ending battle and some okay jokes, but overall lacks the heart of the other movies higher up this list.

RT: 77%
Me: 71%

15) Iron Man 3 (2013)

I don’t think anyone will disagree when I say this is Shane Black’s worst film. I will say, however, that it is a pretty good one aside from its dark themes. The Mandarin twist is slightly dumb, but the rest is not as bad as others say. The writing is rather good and the acting from Downey is better than in the second.

RT: 80%
Me: 75%

14) Iron Man 2 (2010)

      Why do people hate this movie? The bird talk? Get over it.  If you forget that, this is a pretty solid movie. Is it amazing? No, don’t make me laugh. But overall this movie is pretty entertaining. Favreau really understands the character of Stark and that definitely shows here. It has some great acting from Rockwell, Downey, and Johansson; some good direction; and some pretty awesome action. I highly suggest you re-watch this.

RT: 73%
Me: 78%

13) Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

      Let me start off by saying that this is an extremely underrated movie. The acting from Evans is pretty good and the timeline adjustment is done well. My biggest issue is the villain Red Skull who was so awesome in the comics, yet here is the most boring guy who at times can be a real expository mouth piece. I do suggest it, but if you loved Red Skull in the comics, maybe hold off on this one.

RT: 80%
Me: 78%

12) The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Coming out of this, I called this the best MCU movie. That was my first reaction. After re-watching it several times, I wonder what the heck I was thinking. It does feature some cool action and some pretty great character moments but is a huge let down when compared to the first. You should still watch this but don’t expect a sequel as good as the beloved original.

RT: 75%
Me: 81%

11) Ant-Man (2015)

Even though I would have liked to see Edgar Wright make this movie, it was pretty cool to see an origin movie this late in the MCU still be good. Rudd brings a fun vibe to this role that was a nice breath of fresh air that it needed. It has some really unique aspects, like that final battle that makes up for the forgettable villain. I am actually really excited to see the sequel coming the summer. Anybody agree?

RT: 82%
Me: 85%

10) Doctor Strange (2016)

Like the previous film, I am surprised this didn’t stink. I expected a two-hour acid trip but I got a really entertaining intro to a hero I can’t wait to see team up with the Avengers soon. Tilda Swinton was a little quirky but the story and visuals make up for it. One noticeable problem is Marvel’s main difficulty: the villain. Mikkelsen does a great job but I left a little disappointed about his reasoning.

RT: 89%
Me: 85%

9) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

I don’t get the backlash against this movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it. From an action or comedy stand point, this gives the original a run for its money, though the story is a little lacking. I did like the directions they took some of the characters in, but again, the villain was very disappointing and the Sovereign race was really un-needed. Other than that, the movie was really fun and a great time.

RT: 83%
Me: 87%

8) Black Panther (2018)

I was expecting a preachy movie, but what I got was a pretty great one that took a lot of bold choices. It features some of the best action, some great writing, and Coogler’s epic direction as the cherry on top. This is still rather new so I need to avoid spoilers, but I will say this has one of Marvel’s best villains.

 

RT: 97%
Me: 89%

7) Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

This movie is the Spidey film I always wanted. The Tobey Maguire, web-slinging trilogy was pretty good (the first two were at least), but this was more entertaining in my opinion. It found a way to capture the character’s personality from the comics and put it together with a fun story and get a really immersive movie. If you liked Spidey in Civil War, you will love this.

RT: 92%
Me: 90%

6) Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Why this wasn’t call Avengers 2.5 beats me, but it is still really good. The combination of all these heroes is awesome to watch, though the small moments are what make this movie. The style, tone, and action are all superb. Plus, that airport scene is flawless. Sorry to say: the villain is pretty underdeveloped, but the rest of this movie more than makes up for that.

RT: 91%
Me: 92%

5) Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

A political drama in the form of a fun summer movie? Heck yeah! This movie is so different from the others on the list and that is what makes it so good. The Russos did such a great job and it is no wonder they were chosen to make the culmination: Infinity War! If you think this sounds weird, trust me, it works. Please, go watch this extremely original film.

RT: 89%
Me: 93%

4) Iron Man (2008)

The one that started it all. Robert Downey, Jr. makes his famous comeback with this blockbuster landmark that has started the biggest franchise of all time. This is possibly the greatest origin superhero flick, featuring some amazing song choices and superb direction from Favreau. The villain is not the best but this is forgivable since this movie revolutionized the genre.

RT: 94%
Me: 94%

3) Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

      As you saw earlier on the list, I was really disappointed by the first two Thor flicks, but this is a whole different story. The fun tone and jokey attitude make this so much fun and eliminates all the problems the first entries experienced. Waititi revamped something I thought was dead and brought new life to the God of Thunder. I hope everyone gets a chance to experience this extremely thrilling movie, which also, by the way, has an awesome soundtrack.

RT: 92%
Me: 95%

2) The Avengers (2012)

This movie is an absolute game changer. The grand scope of this 2012 action-packed epic is utterly jaw dropping. The idea of bringing SIX heroes together seemed doomed from the beginning but Whedon, Feige, and the whole cast proved that idea wrong with this blockbuster record breaker. I really want to ruin nothing of this for those who haven’t seen it so please go see it.

RT: 92%
Me: 97%

1) Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

      The first time I saw this, I didn’t really like it. I liked Iron Man 2 more. But then it topped list after list and so I watched it again. Ever since, no Marvel movie has come close to entertaining me more than this does. The acting is on point, the editing is superb, the jokes hit. It features amazing direction from Gunn, some of the best writing in recent years, and some jaw dropping visuals.

Most people had never heard of the Guardians before this, but this cinematic awesomeness put these fictional heroes on the map. Fast forward four years with the release of Infinity War approaching, and most people are talking about their anticipation to see them over Iron Man and friends.

Is this the greatest film ever made? No. Is it worthy of winning every single award at the Oscars? Absolutely not. Is it a great time and super kick butt? Yes. It isn’t trying to be the next Godfather or Citizen Kane, but as a cool summer blockbuster, it does a nearly perfect job.

RT: 91%
Me: 99%

So, that is my ranking of the MCU. Let me know down in the comment section your ranking and your thoughts on these flicks. I would love to interact and talk about these movies. Also, tell me if you would like to see an Infinity War predictions post and/or an in-depth review for one of these. Thank you so much for reading and of course hope you have fun re-visiting these in anticipation for Infinity War!

*My grades judge out of 100: the job they do telling the story they are trying to tell. I might give a drama a 95 and a blockbuster the same, but the drama will probably be a lot better. I judge an action thriller as that, and if it is action packed and very thrilling I will give it an amazing grade. A drama could be good but lacking and so I grade it an okay grade. That drama could still be a lot better than the superhero flick.

I often refer to it as The Nap World.

Book Review: Never Waste Tears

Author Gloria Zachgo is so kindly gifting a FREE COPY of Never Waste Tears to one lucky winner. For your chance to win, simply comment below or at the link provided at review’s end.

Click here for author interview!

Never Waste Tears by Gloria Zachgo

Never Waste Tears opens in 1861 with news of Fort Sumter spreading through town on the same day Nathaniel Carter turns 13. In almost no time the American Civil War is upon the families and even those who don’t go off to fight are adversely affected long before their loved ones return—some in boxes—as well as upon re-unification.

never waste
Never Waste Tears is a B.R.A.G. Medallion winner (click image)

Through Nathaniel and other characters, author Gloria Zachgo speaks to readers of this time, utilizing diary entries that also enable individuals to recount events as they see them unfold. At first Nathaniel and a local girl, Rebecca, speak of their experiences, and their diaries take us very quickly through to 1868, when we start to witness people beginning westward journeys in pursuit of the promises of homesteading the land.

As Americans are wont to do, the people look especially to the future for healing, often found in the privilege of hard work, the bounties of which they can in turn gift to those yet to come.

It is with this mentality and the promise of land that would be ceded to them after five years of successfully working it that five individuals, some of whose diaries enter the story later, commence along with others what had to have been a heartbreaking beginning to even a promising new life, many of them knowing they likely would never see their families again.

Journal entries is a particularly clever technique for this book because as the story begins to cover more terrain, events occur that crisscross with each other in the same ways as do the trails settlers cross, consider, return and flee from, creating pathways and perspectives unique to each character. We see events strictly through their eyes, even when we know additional bits as experienced and related in others’ journals. It’s a bit like being a fly on the wall—a much bigger wall, of course—and demonstrates that even listening in is no easy task, considering all we are given to know.

Carl…

 When the war finally ended I didn’t go home right away. Instead I fulfilled a promise to the boy from Kansas who saved my life and gave up his own. He stepped in front of a bullet that was meant for me. I killed the man who shot him. And then I held that boy in my arms whilst he took a while to die.

 I didn’t go home. I couldn’t. I wandered instead…One day I come upon this little creek in the middle of nowhere…The rattlin’ in my head stopped and I no longer smelled the stench of death in ever’ thing. I heard a meadowlark’s sweet melody…Some kind of miracle happened to me in that place.                                                                                                              

Zachgo’s characters speak in a manner that, while not especially peculiar to that time, at least not in its entirety, lends flavor to reader understanding of their background and social class. Speech patterns evident in such phrases as “She’d growed to love my family” and “I knowed how much she loved me” are given just enough mileage to win readers rather than alienate them. The author successfully balances the sincerity of their speech without leaning too heavily on it.

Language utilized also tends to be of a stark nature, reflecting, as language often does, the environment, though the diaries show it is as valued as the sound of a harmonica played after supper, companionship and love of animals or the view of a heartbreakingly beautiful sunset. Its role at times is utilitarian, but links the characters in connections they form with words from their hearts.

Besides, Zachgo doesn’t need to overuse dialect, given the depth of insight we are given to the actual character of various personalities. Moreover, on occasion we forget we are reading journals as we fall into events relayed via actions, events and dialogue as well as introspection. The characters’ passions burn bright in all they say and Zachgo keeps us hooked as we continue turning the pages to see what becomes of this or that situation. In many instances, the reading is not unlike being witness to an ongoing narrative being relayed as your eyes dart from one speaker to the next, then back to the first and so on.

[Homestead deed as written out in 1868 image to be replaced]

As the time for departure inches closer, we learn more of the fear extant in the hearts and minds of the people as they embark on and move through their journeys. For Nathaniel and many others, this new start is the only option for creating something different, and the yearning for it remains even after lengthy and repeated introspection. However, the unspeakable difficulty of what lay ahead links to past lessons learned reflected in the title’s directive about never wasting tears.

Because settlers have to reach so far down inside of themselves to muster every ounce of courage, strength and fortitude they possess, tears are viewed simultaneously as too extraneous and precious a use of energy to squander. Other duties and activities need the resource far more.

The loneliness and deprivation, backbreaking labor, fear, constant threat of Indian attacks and unsettling nature of not knowing what may come next requires a great deal more than some understand when they set out, and Zachgo demonstrates their discovery of this with a slowly-emerging awareness the characters handle with varying degrees of ability—or none at all. It is, after all, a novel filled with conflict of individuals with themselves, others and nature, much more than most human beings could go up against in one lifetime.

Set in post-Civil War America as it is, this particular war extra notorious for having literally engaged brother against brother, Zachgo’s characters search not only for something to call their own on those homesteads, but also the elusive unity Americans so desperately need at this painful time. Again we see this reflected in the language as people refer to themselves in a manner indicative of how they behave toward one another.

Separations abound and in order to make it in this harsh environment, unity has to permeate every angle of their lives, but with understanding of what divisions are useful and necessary, in contrast to today’s supposed ideal that in order for all things to be equal they must be exactly the same. Zachgo introduces what I find to be a more genuine feminism, one that recognizes the reality of women’s overall lesser physical strength, without removing the possibility that they can still contribute to the rich growth of a productive society.

Nathan…

 She stopped to catch her breath. I was immediately sorry and a whole lot confused. I started to open my mouth, but she wasn’t finished with me just yet.

 “Let’s get one thing straight betwixt us. I can do some things myself and I don’t need you to tell me I can’t. If I have to dig the whole well myself, I will find a way to do it. It may take me a lot longer than you men-folk, but I can do it.” When she stopped for another deep breath, I took the opportunity to hold up my hands in surrender.

Later, following a conversation between Nathan and his wife, he writes, “How good it was to hear the word ‘us’ in her words.”

Never Waste Tears is a story of true discovery of one’s self and others, and what that brings to the relationships previously conflicted. The characters learn what they must make room for in their lives in order to survive, though too often at such great cost they sometimes wonder of its worth.

For readers of today, the worth is everywhere in their stories, including the understanding that despite progress and advancements in society since this era, they do have something to tell us about how we relate to each other, as well as them. It is also an examination of language in which they—and we—see that not all words are created equal and the adaptation isn’t quite as straightforward as many of us may believe.

I also appreciated Zachgo’s inclusion of perspectives that consider the Native population without finger pointing, as well as a representative character who moves around a lot, not only for his job in aiding and guiding settlers, but also because this is his nature. I would have liked to get to know Skinner a bit more, as it seems he would have had a wealth of tales from a wide variety of sources and perspectives. Perhaps this can lead to opening for a sequel, or at least a companion book with some or all of these characters.

A fascinating, poignant and crucial witness to the lives of those who dared to dream, Never Waste Tears is a must read for the collection of any student of American history, those curious as to what it was like to move west, or anyone looking for a rewarding and timeless read. The homesteaders’ stories will settle within and make any reader richer for the experience.

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zachgo bio picAfter raising two children and selling her home-based business, Gloria Zachgo discovered her artistic talents. When the walls of her home grew heavy with her eclectic drawings and paintings she found she also had a flair for writing fictional stories. One of those stories developed into her debut novel, The Rocking Horse, which received honorable mention at the 20th annual Self-Published Book Awards winners.

Zachgo published her second novel, Never Waste Tears, in December of 2014. It was selected as an indie B.R.A.G (Book Readers Appreciation Group) Medallion honoree.

She lives with her husband, Ron, in Kansas, where she is currently working on another novel.

You can learn more about Gloria Zachgo at her website, Amazon author page and Facebook. Follow her at Twitter and her Goodreads author page.

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For your chance to win a FREE COPY of Never Waste Tears, simply comment below or at this blog’s Facebook page, located here.

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The reviewer was provided with a free copy of Never Waste Tears in exchange for an honest review.

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This post was updated to include a link to author interview.

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