Stories & Souvenirs from Ancient Sparta: Enter to Win Olive Oil & Oregano from Greece!

Hello from Sparta, Greece!

Hello from Sparta, Greece!

There’s a passage from Homer’s The Iliad that reads:

“Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men. Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth, now the living timber bursts with the new buds and spring comes round again. And so with men: as one generation comes to life, another dies away.”

This is not only a great quote for Autumn, as the leaves color and float and fall to the ground reminding us all that change is natural and seasonality vital, but it is also a great introduction to the guiding principles behind our next interview.

In today’s post we are traveling 5,000 miles away crossing over Homer’s “roaring seas and many a dark mountain range” to the country of Greece to the historic city of Sparta where we are chatting for a bit underneath the olive trees with Jehny and George from The Spartan Table. Purveyors and producers of an assortment of agricultural delights in this Mediterranean section of the world, Jehny and George come from a small town that is very BIG on  ancient history.

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First having discovered these two by way of Etsy, Ms. Jeannie fell in love with the sights and sounds of Sparta on a field walk with Jehny and her family as they described picking herbs in the Taygetus Mountains via their newsletter…

“The talk stops and for the next couple of hours, we ‘re “lost” in a green and white sea” of wild oregano together with thousands of bees and relative insects. We ‘re all busy to get as much as we can from this amazing plant. We stop for few minutes from time to time just to lay our eyes on the surrounding mountainsides while the sun has starting to set. There  are so much peace and beauty and even some sounds of some sheep somewhere around echoing like an old song from the distance…”

It was a combination of their descriptive writing, their enthusiasm for the job at hand, their accented words, the beauty of their landscape and their deep-rooted love for their country that caught Ms. Jeannie’s heart.  As part of the American culture’s ideals of constantly being on the move, always next-best-thinging our way through life, it was refreshing to read about people who were so settled into their sense of place and so appreciative of their natural surroundings. And then there was their national pride. Read further to understand this.

View of the Taygetus Mountains

View of the Taygetus Mountains

We all know that Greece has had their hardships, most recently with the economy – but as you learn through Jehny’s newsletters the detailed account of her family’s history over the last one hundred years and that of the olive grove that she now cultivates, we begin to understand this extraordinary set of determined people passionate about seeking and seeing the positive, progressive side of life. “To plant an olive tree is to proclaim a faith in the future, for it will be the following generations that will benefit, will reap no matter drought or storm, dictator or revolution, once the olive has made its home,” said Jehny in her February 1st, 2016 newsletter.

Jehny's family photographed in the 1930's

Jehny’s family photographed in the 1930’s

The Spartan Table was born in 2013 after Jehny left behind an unfulfilling corporate job and discovered by way of a small series of realizations that her passions leaned more towards olives than offices. In the early days of shop-keeping, she first offered a selection of local wild herbs cultivated from the mountains around her.  Quickly her shop grew to include olives, olive oil and olive paste from her family’s olive trees. Each year added a new series of local products and a new level of ancient history to back it up. Today you can find an increasingly interesting array of Greek products in her shop including sea salt dried on the sun soaked rocks of Mani, traditional sweet treats baked in Jehny’s kitchen, honey from beekeeper Bill, handmade soap and cutting boards (from the olive trees!) all made and/or procured by Jehny, her family and her friends in their local environment.

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A sampling of treasures from The Spartan Table!

How does she do it all you wonder? Can one woman’s love of her country and culture sustain a life worth living? You bet! Get to know more about Jehny and George and their storybook landscape in their interview here and then sign up below for a chance to win a complimentary souvenir from Sparta courtesy of Jehny and The Spartan Table.

Experience the flavor of Greece for yourself with these two special treats from The Spartan Table.

Experience the flavor of Greece for yourself with these two special treats from The Spartan Table.

Your location in Sparta is gorgeous! In your bio, you mention that it is your family’s region and that you have lived there a long time. In the United States families move around A LOT. So I am intrigued by your permanent sense of place in Sparta. What keeps (or has kept) your family there for all these generations?

Sparta is our homeland.It’s a mythical land with – perhaps – the most know Greek Ancient city (With Athens) The landscape is just beautiful. If you could see, even for a moment what we see every morning, the magnificent mountain Taygetus and the Spartan valley, you’d fell immediately in love with the place. Living in a place which great people once lived in, makes us feel truly blessed.

Sparti, Peloponnese, Greece. Photo courtesy of scout.com

Sparti, Peloponnese, Greece.

Tell us little bit about daily life in Sparta. Do you live in a farmhouse in the country or do you live in the city center in a more urban type dwelling?

Today the “modern Sparta” which has built in 1836, is a small town with near 20.000 inhabitants. We live just few blocks from the center and beside the Ancient Acropolis & Theater. Just 100 meters from our home, there are hundreds of very old olive trees amongst the Ancient ruins.

The ancient acroplis

The Acropolis in Ancient Sparta.

If we were to visit you in Sparta where are the first three places you would take us?

The Acropolis and the Ancient Theater. The Mystras Byzantine castle city, where the last emperor left to save the Konstantinople. (Like King Leonidas, the last emperor went to fight into a war, knowing in advance that everything had being lost). And the museum of the Olive Oil, which is unique in Greece.

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Clockwise from left to right: The Museum of Olive Oil, the Mystras Byzantine Castle City and the Ancient Theater.

So many people in life don’t appreciate the environment around them which is what makes The Spartan Table and all your lovely newsletters so refreshing. Your national pride is wonderful. What keeps you excited about your culture on an everyday basis?

As we mentioned before, living in a land of heroes, it’s impossible not to feel the “vibes” of their acts despite that hundreds of years have passed. We feel that we have to make something for the next generations and keep the spirit of dignity, pride and freedom alive.

King Leonides, Byzantine Church, Mystras

King Leonidas, the gorgeous indoor and outdoor architecture of Byzantine Church and Mystras.

From harvesting olives to farming sea salt to collecting herbs and honey and making soap – are you involved in all these endeavors personally or do you have a big team that helps you gather items for your shop?

Since we started from the scratch – after a stressed corporate life- we tried to make everything with our hands and our small team (our Family). Getting some big inquiries and interest about our humble treasures, we decided to add some more People in our small team. These are people with great passion and love about what they do and we are honored and proud having them with us!

In the olives!

In the olives!

Of all the items in your shop right now, which is your most favorite?

Jehny: wild walnuts with honey from wild flowers and herbs.

George: Sheperd’s tea with honey from wild flowers and herbs.

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Jehny’s favorite on the left, George’s on the right.

What are the differences between Greek olive oil and Italian olive oil? Do they contain different olive varieties or are they harvested in a different way? Does the different geographic landscape/environment affect the taste of olive oil?

First of all, remember that Greece is the 3rd biggest olive oil producer in the world with an average of 350.000tn annually. Italy is at 600.000 tons (when their internal consumption is 800.000tn – think about it) And Spain is more than 1.200.000tn. Greece produces mostly extra virgin olive oil (which Italy and Spain does not) Laconia, our regions produces ONLY extra virgin olive oil and it’s one of the 3 biggest producer regions in Greece. “Koroneiki” is one of the best and most well know varieties of Greece but we have one more unique one: “Athinoelia” (the tree of Goddess Athena). This is an exquisite EVOO and it’s the “first extra virgin olive oil” in Greece every year. This EVOO has a strong and spicy taste and almost all of the yearly production is going to abroad every year. It’ s the EVOO that everyone must try even for once in life!

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Extra virgin olive oil from The Spartan Table .

Which country do you ship your products to the most?

Mostly to U.S and secondly to Canada. We’ve met wonderful people in these first 3 years and we hope that one day we’ll have the honor and pleasure to welcome them in our home.

Soap handmade by Jehny's mom!

Soap handmade by Jehny’s mom!

You mention in your olive oil listings that you can also use the oil as part of your beauty regiment. How would you recommend using it?

Simply by putting on the skin (massage). Or make “oil with herbs”.

Handmade Olive Paste

Handmade Olive Paste

What is one thing that has really surprised you this past year in regards to your business?

As we said before, through these 3 years since we started, we met wonderful people which not only supported us as with all their hearts but also shared few lines and messages with their beloved ones. This led to warm feedback and to a genuine interest from a company from Netherlands which asked for a big project for Christmas. Upon our first contact and we asked how they found us , they simply answered : “We read your story and every feedback about you”. Then we understood that the love and support of our Friends in the States (mostly), “drove” them to our door!

If you could invite five famous people (dead or alive) to dinner at your house whom would you choose and why?

Well, we can’t really choose. There are a lot of people which we’d love to invite. So instead of this option, we want to invite as many people as we can to share our table. You know, “common people” like us.

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A recent addition to the Jehny’s shop – Olive Wood Drink Coasters!

What is your most favorite meal to make in your kitchen?

Greek Salad (and many another kind of salads) and Meat (pork, chicken in the oven with EVOO, herbs, and different vegetables).

When you are not cooking or harvesting or collecting for business what hobbies do you enjoy? Reading and sharing moments with family and friends (and sometimes trying to get some decent sleep – cause we miss it often!)

On George's bookshelf...

On George’s bookshelf…

What book are you currently reading? What music are you currently listening to? Jehny : Reading books and articles about decorations (special events and weddings). Greek pop music. George: “I contain Multitudes” & “The secret life of plants”. Old Rock and classical music.

Do you ever dream about living somewhere else in the world? If so, where would you choose and why?

No, but we love to travel and meet new friends. Unfortunately due to the heavy crisis in Greece, we can’t afford to any trips but we hope that one day we ‘ll start traveling again.

What inspires you about your business?

The superb landscape. You can’t be “unaffected” when You see the mountains and the valley every morning!

View from the olive groves!

View from the olive groves!

Understandably so, with a  view like that! Throughout history, the olive branch has been a symbol of peace the world over.  Although they lead busy lives as blooming entrepreneurs, you can see how the olive trees have brought peace and fulfillment to the lives of Jehny and George. And you can taste it too. In the aromatic flavor of their olive oil, which is fresh and raw like newly cut grass. In the sweet, earthy smell of their wild mountain oregano. To breathe these two cooking staples in, is to breathe all the myths and legends and stories of a thousand centuries. It is to breathe in the sun and the sky and the windswept air of Sparta, where great men and women have dared to accomplish great feats.  But maybe most importantly you are breathing in generations of a country’s faith in itself and in it’s future.

giveaway from The Spartan Table

Jehny and Ms. Jeannie are so excited to offer three lucky readers the opportunity to sample the wild oregano cultivated from the Taygetus Mountains and the extra virgin olive oil from the family groves of The Spartan Table. Three winners will each receive one complimentary packet of oregano and two mini bottles of olive oil to test and  to try to experiment and to explore.

All you need to do is fill in the comment box below with your name and email address (so we can let you know who won!) and then answer the question: Who is your favorite author? in the comment box, so we can avoid spam messages. Winners will be picked at random and will be announced both here on the blog, on instagram and via email on Monday morning, November 21st, so please enter for your chance to win by midnight (11:59pm) on Sunday (11/20). Enter as many times as you like and please spread the word to fellow culinary lovers.

Please note, Ms. Jeannie totally respects your privacy. Your contact information will not be sold or shared and is simply used here for contest purposes only. If you are reading this post on your phone you may have trouble seeing the actual contact form box. Please visit msjeannieology.com to access the private and secure form which will send your entry directly to a private email account. Any troubles beyond this, please comment on the blog post and Ms. Jeannie will help you ASAP!

While you wait to find out if you are the lucky recipient of a Sparta souvenir peruse the lovely offerings of  The Spartan Table here .

{After a long nap in the question and answer department, Ms. Jeannie’s interview series is back in full swing, bringing you face to face with real-life creatives from around the globe. If you missed last week’s interview with museum director  Louise Van Tartwijk, from Washington, Connecticut’s Gunn Historical Museum find it here. If you are new to this series, catch up on a bevy of previous interviews here.}

Until Monday, cheers and good luck!

Photo credits: The Spartan Table, maranghuset.se

Derby Day Fun: Pick A Winner, Win A Prize

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It’s Kentucky Derby time dear readers! As you know from past years, this is always a fun and festive time in the land of Ms. Jeannie. The roses are blooming, the mint is growing and the party planning is underway. Post time for the big race is Saturday (May 7th) at 6:34pm, where 20 horses will compete in the 142nd run for the roses. As of this (blog) post publication time, the field is large this year with 26 entrants in possible contention, which means six names will drop off before Saturday.

It’s a big guess as to who will make the final list and who will win the Derby. Anything is possible in horse racing and nothing can be left up to certainty until hooves pass the finish line, which is one of the elements that make this Saturday so exciting. In honor of such spirited sportsmanship, Ms. Jeannie is hosting a little competition of her own right here on the blog. Post the name of the winner in the comments section between now and 5:45pm on Saturday and you’ll win a very cool vintage prize that will be mailed out to you on Monday.

Here are all 26 entrants compiled in three sets in random order. Pick your favorite, type their name in the comments section below this post and Ms. Jeannie will be in touch if you (lucky you!) have chosen the winner!

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2016 Kentucky Derby Entrants: 1.Lani 2. Outwork 3. Suddenbreakingnews 4. Brody’s Cause 5. Gun Runner 6. Discreetness 7. Nyquist

You can only enter once, so make your selection count!

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8. Dazzling Gem 9. Mo Tom 10. My Man Sam 11. Creator 12. Adventist 13. Shagaf 14. Fellowship 15. Trojan Nation 16. Exaggerator

You can be easy breezy about this whole contest by picking a horse by name or face value or you can read up on each of the entrants on kentuckyderby.com 

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17. Cherry Wine 18. Tom’s Ready 19. Laoban 20. Mor Spirit 21. Destin 22. Oscar Nominated 23.  Mohaymen 24. Majesto 25. Whitmore 26. Danzing Candy

Good luck dear readers and happy guessing! Contest winner will be announced early next week!!!

Catch up on past Derby Day festivities here.  Photo credits of all racers in this post courtesy of: ladyandthetrack.com, coady photography, thisishorseracing.com, dylan buell, el porto roberto, horse racing nation, kentuckyderb.com, clb photography

We Have A Winner! Deer Gets A Name!

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Ladies and gentlemen… it’s a great day to name a deer! On behalf of our statuesque stag, Ms. Jeannie is pleased to announce a winner in the Name That Deer contest!

After much deliberation, Deer is excited to say that from here on out he will now affectionately be called…

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Hudson!

Named after the 19th century Argentinian born writer and naturalist William Henry Hudson (1841-1922) who wrote the gorgeous rain forest love story Green Mansions, our newly titled Hudson was taken with this name because it combined both literature and nature.

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But this was not to say that this was an easy decision to make! Ms. Jeannie herself marveled at all the fabulous suggestions. The choices included gorgeous classicals: Charles Dickens, Brete Harte, Sebastian Flyte, Hemingway, Jack London, E.B. White, Clement C. Moore and Washington Irving along with super creatives: Val and Belletristic. There was a nod towards Deer’s feminine side with the suggestions of Emma and Pearl S. Buck. And there was even a funny one among the mix with the nomination of Vinnie’s Son –  a play on the word venison! Such choices. Such fun.

A big, big congratulations goes out to mariedge2033 over on Instagram for contributing the winning name! A most special prize is heading your way shortly! Hudson would also like to sincerely thank each and every one one of you who took the time to help him find a name. Thank you, thank you dear readers for being so fantastic.

Help! This Deer Needs A Name!

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Dear readers, Ms. Jeannie needs your help! Her resident deer needs a name. He’s been a handsome part of the Ms. Jeannie landscape for almost a year now, quietly adding some elegance and dignity to the library where he lives. But this morning he woke up on the wrong side of the shelf. He was upset, and most rightly so.

For close to 365 days he’s just been called Deer. That was fine in the beginning but now he wants a proper name. It seems Deer will just not do any longer. Upon hearing this, Ms. Jeannie racked her brain. She couldn’t come up with anything creative except for George Eliot, which Deer reminded her was the masculine pen name for a lady writer. He wants something manly. Rhett Butler she suggested next. But they both knew that wasn’t quite right either. What then? Ernest, F. Scott, William? Tolstoy, Kipling, King? There are a million names, a billion names, centuries worth of names, but Ms. Jeannie couldn’t think of one that seemed fitting. What could a good name be?

This is where you step in, dear readers, with one of your super sensational suggestions.  Deer has fabulous taste and a shining disposition. He’s statuesque in style with a head for poetry and a heart for adventure. Before he met Ms. Jeannie he lived in an attic for so long he forgot his own purpose and turned the color of dust. Now he grazes everyday on the great words of great writers and acts as shepard to a growing flock of books.  Now he wants to be called something captivating… something big… something bold. Now he wants a name of literary proportions. Now, now, now he says!

Please help! Contribute a name in the comments section below.  The one Deer loves the best will win a prize and a place in his heart forever and ever.

Socializing Ms. Jeannie: The Wheres and the Whys

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Gearing up for Fall and the busy holiday shopping season ahead, Ms. Jeannie is taking the briefest of moments to highlight where and why you can find her in the world of social media. Besides here on the blog and on Etsy, you can find Ms. Jeannie…

On Twitter:

A retweet from flavorwire

A vintage inspired re-tweet from flavorwire. Bookish business cards!

Here you’ll find Ms. Jeannine tweeting about literary quotes, interesting vintage inspired trends (like the above bookish business cards!), historical fun facts, new shop items, cool places to travel, favorite books and secret sale announcements. Follow Ms. Jeannie on twitter here.

On Instagram:

A sampling of Ms. Jeannie photos on Instagram

A sampling of Ms. Jeannie photos on Instagram

Just recently joined, here you’ll find behind-the-scenes shots of Ms. Jeannie’s blog photo shoots, moments of nature that catch her attention, ideas being crafted in the shop and of course magical moments with Indie – the biggest ham on Instagram! Follow Ms. Jeannie on Instagram here.

On Pinterest:

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Some of Ms. Jeannie’s most popular boards include (from left to right): The Vintage House, The Vintage Man and the Vintage Garden

On Pinterest you’ll find a collection of design boards curated by Ms. Jeannie that seamlessly blend vintage items into our contemporary world through decorating, gardening, fashion, cooking, party planning and more. There’s a bit of whimsy floating around that space too! Fun boards include:  Scenes from a Dinner Party Long Ago, True Adventurers and The Vintage Bird. Sign up to follow Ms. Jeannie on Pinterest here.

On Facebook: 

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Vintage concrete rabbit bookends available in Ms. Jeannie’s shop.

This is the least utilized of all the social media outlets by Ms. Jeannie at the moment but come September this is where you’ll find new shop items, press mentions, shop sales, vintage item collections and favorite books. Like Ms. Jeannie on Facebook here.

And a big BIG thank you dear readers for encouraging the world of Ms. Jeannie in all the ways that you do. From comments on the blog to social media likes and favorites to individual messages – every single one of your thoughts and clicks counts big time in helping Ms. Jeannie persue her passion. It’s cliche to say she couldn’t do it with out you. But really she couldn’t do it without you.  Thanks for being marvelous.

Please include your social media links in the comments section so we all can find you too!

And The Winner Is….

Two weeks ago Ms. Jeannie held a little photo story contest on her blog with the chance to win this vintage photo…

The prize!

The prize!

Well, we didn’t have any entrants, dear readers. Not one! But that is okay by Ms. Jeannie. This gives her another opportunity to exercise her imagination!  She had been looking at this photograph for quite awhile now, trying to imagine all the scenarios and possibilities these two ladies could have gotten themselves into.  For days and days she looked and thought, but she couldn’t get beyond a sentence or two. Not even with the handwritten prompt on back that read Grace and me. I have on Grace’s hat and she has mine on.

To help the story develop, Ms. Jeannie threw two other photographs into the mix…

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and then the story just opened up a like a sunny spring flower!

Here’s the situation, Ms. Jeannie came up with,  based on the three pictures…

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Rudyard Noble just drove onto Main Street and already the telephone lines were hot with gossip. Word had it that Rudyard was here on a visit specifically to see Grace Dalton, who at the present moment was on a ladder in the rafters of her parents garage shed.  There had been speculation of letters exchanged between Grace and Rudyard over an entire year, but this matter was not discussed publicly. Speculation of the Mayor’s family had to be handled delicately, and as first daughter of Wayfaire, the politics and private matters concerning Grace’s love life, although enticing, had to be considered off public record, for the betterment of the community at large. No one wanted to get on the bad side of the Mayor with that temper of his flaring up like wildfire in the July heat.

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That being said, this was a horse racing community, and quiet bets were being hedged in every household. Everyone knew that Sam of Sam’s Machine Repair was doing his best to court Grace all the way to the alter.

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But now it seems there was to be some sort of competition for Grace’s heart and it was going to be tough. Rudyard was a self-made man with a booming business back in New York, with the looks of a movie star and the language of a literary lover. Sam on the other hand, came from more humble roots. He worked with his hands, studied engineering and fiddled around with the science of botony enough to surprise Grace with a hybrid of wildflower wonders in his backyard garden. The linchpin was that new car of Rudyard’s.

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You see, Grace had a curious head for business. Not for the political glad-handing of her father’s world, but for the basics of profit and loss. She and Daisy, her very best girlfriend since grade school, had started a little hat business, which is what brought Grace into the storage shed on this very day.

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Their business at first was just simple repairs…loose threads, ill-attached decorations, flopping flowers, etc.  These quick fixes garnered the girls enough money to go to the cinema once a week, where they delighted in the costumes of Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo.  Inspired, the girls began to feel the excitement in creating and then selling their own designs, based on popular movies of the day. Grace didn’t fancy herself as talented a milliner as Daisy, but she did have a special calming knack for dealing with customers and keeping the books figured correctly and organizing ads in the local newspaper. They became quite a little team.

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That’s where Rudyard came in. Daisy had dreams of taking their business as far as Kentucky…to Lexington, the creative epi-center of the hat wearing kingdom. But Grace, although more timid in personality, had bolder ideas. She wanted to get to New York, to London, to Paris with their business. She wanted to walk in the footsteps of Coco Chanel and decorate the heads of movie stars and royalty.

Rudyard had left Wayfaire exactly four years ago this summer, and he was already such a tycoon in the New York business scene, he afforded his own fully furnished 5th Avenue apartment, a country Hudson River house upstate and now, his very own automobile. In their year of correspondence, Rudyard had become Grace’s university on big city enterprise, offering her step by step practicalities of what it would take to make it in Manhattan.

While this correspondence was building between Grace and Rudyard, Daisy was building something of her own as well –  a love affair with Harry, Sam’s brother.

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In addition now to hats, Daisy also dreamed of wedding dresses and babies and a house of her own.  There was still lots of room for business in that head of hers, but Daisy was a prioritzer and Harry was arduant, so more often then not, Grace would catch Daisy sketching  farmhouses instead of feathers, baby clothes instead of berets.

All this wedding talk on his brother’s behalf, got Sam thinking about his own future. He sat back all summer long and listened to Grace’s lyrical way with the language of hats  and he wondered where he fit in to her whole new enterprise.  Grace might be shy when it came to words of love but ask her about a certain style of brim or the cleaning and care of a certain type of fabric and she could talk for hours. He loved the idea of her determination but he also loved the idea of having a wife. And in all of the word’s spoken from Grace’s pale pink lips, she never once mentioned the word marriage to Sam. He noticed this. He was listening hard for some prompt or sign to keep encouraging him down the road of matrimony.  He had grown quite used to Grace and he could picture her face settled into the same farm lifestyle that he wanted with her arms full of chickens and freshly baked bread and summer evenings on a porch in Wayfaire.

But now Rudyard is here, shiny and sophisticated and equally fond of Grace and her ways with language. Daisy’s gone to get Grace down from the rafters in the shed. She’ll have to pull the cobwebs from her hair and exchange her hat for Grace’s hat since Daisy’s style looks better with Grace’s dress.

Sam does his own rearranging. He puts on a tie – his one and only tie.  If today is the day he is going to propose, he at least wants to do it properly. Harry says it is a rash decision. Hang back and see how Rudyard plays out – those are the words of advice Harry offers as they walk the back road shortcut  to Grace’s house.

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{to be continued} Look for more on this saga in coming blog posts!

Meanwhile, the trio of photographs is now available for sale in Ms. Jeannie’s shop here.

Storytime (and a Challenge!) with Ms. Jeannie: How Old Photographs Can Spark The Imagination!

When Ms. Jeannie first started doing her genealogy research, the holy grail of success for her was finding the faces of her ancestors. She worked close to a year before she uncovered any. Ironically, that first photo that opened up the pictorial floodgates, was right under her nose… in an album Ms. Jeannie’s mom had forgotten about in the back of a closet!

The day Ms. Jeannie looked at the face of her great great grandmother Martha, for the first time, she was so overcome with emotion, she cried!

The first picture of great great grandmother Martha

The first picture of great great grandmother Martha (on right)

Silly but true. Ms. Jeannie is not really the weepy kind, after all. Anyway, she just got caught up in the moment.  All those months of researching Martha’s  life  – her 11 kids, her journey in covered wagon from Indiana to Ohio to Iowa, her husband’s military service in the Civil War, her farm life in Iowa… all those details rolling around Ms. Jeannie’s head for all that time. And then suddenly – there was Martha!  There was the shape of her face, the evidence of glasses, the style of her hair.

Since then, through help from online forums like ancestry.com and genealogy.com and the kindness of sharers, Ms, Jeannie has found handfuls of family photos. Her family.  Spread out over many trees, many lines and many countries. These are some of the more recent finds…

Great Grand Aunt Anna's house in Iowa

Great Grand Aunt Anna’s house in Iowa

Great Great Grandfather Albert

Great Great Grandfather Albert

Fourth Great Grandparents Maria & Garret

Fourth Great Grandparents Maria & Garret

Great Grand Uncle J. William

Great Grand Uncle J. William

Grand Aunt Leona

Grand Aunt Leona

Great Grandmother Juna and her sister Hannah

Great Grandmother Juna and her sister Hannah

Had she never done the research, Ms. Jeannie would never have known what any of these people looked like. With the exception of great grandmother Juna, these were all brand-new faces of family.

Ms. Jeannie likes to look at these pictures and think about the context in which they were taken. What was great Aunt Leona thinking about? Why were Juna and Hannah wearing paper dresses? What was the pin on the lapel of J. William? Noticing small details like this paints a vivid picture for the imagination!

In the same vain, whenever Ms. Jeannie comes across old photographs for sale, she can’t help but do the  same exact thing – she thinks about the back story surrounding each image.  She has several examples of this in her Etsy shop… let’s take a look…(click on any of the pictures for more information about each photograph)

On first glance, you might just see a picture of a girl on a bench…

Ms. Jeannie named her Nina!

Ms. Jeannie named her Nina!

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But crawl inside Ms. Jeannie’s head and she’ll tell you this story…

“Nina waited patiently for Spring. Well, technically, she was waiting for summer – but you had to get through spring in order to get to summer, so she had to dream in order. This summer, she’d be done. Done with high school. Done with wearing plaid skirt uniforms and done, done, done with all that homework, thank goodness. Sure, she was going onto college in the Fall, but that would be different. There would be boys, and classes she wanted to take and parents that she only had to see on breaks. At college, her preferences for life would bloom and Nina couldn’t wait for that. She’d study literature and she’d become a writer and her very first piece would be about the suffocation of long skirts and loafers.”

Here, you see two bathing beauties…

1940s Swim Photographs

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And Ms. Jeannie sees Rose and Evelyn…

“Rose and Evelyn stayed in their swimsuits the whole entire vacation. And who could blame them? With that ocean stretching out behind them and the infinity pool disappearing in front – it was all they needed. This was the vacation where Evelyn perfected her dive, and where Rose realized that she was now technically old enough to flirt with boys without looking ridiculous. It was an ego-booster for both of them, this vacation.”

This one is a school scene from the 1920’s…

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Sometimes, Ms. Jeannie sees many stories in one scene. Such is the case, with this one! Here is all she imagined…

“There’s the obvious one, of course, about how smiling Dorothy is in love with Gilbert and absolutely thrilled that her crush of the past two years is now sharing elbow space with her. 

There’s the story about lively Pauline (in the forefront) and how she talked her way into getting the traveling photographer to stop by her Biology 101 class. “You’ll want to document the budding scientific genius occurring in room 9, sir. I guarantee you that.” 

There’s the story of Mr. Whipple, first year science teacher, who doggedly fought the school board for months over the right to buy 37 microscopes so that each student in his class (not just the boys) would have use of their own scientific study instruments. 

Then there is the story of three friends, who spent all summer in the science lab researching why the bullfrogs in Tillman Pond were genetically bigger then the bullfrogs in every other pond in town. 

And let’s not forget about humble Pauline who was the first girl, in the state of Texas, to win first place in the national science fair, which yielded not only a cash prize for her, but new textbooks and supplies for her school. 

Oh, Ms. Jeannie could practically write a novel with all the situations going on here! Now it’s your turn to look close and see what stories you see…”

This one is a miniature portrait…

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Ms. Jeannie called her Marion and wrote about her neighbor, Arnie (short for Arnold)…

“Marion’s got a suitor in her neighbor, Arnie, across the street. Well, technically he’s not really her suitor yet – but one of these days she’s going to fall head over heels for him. He just knows it. In the meantime, he does his best, on a daily basis, to try to impress her – nothing’s really gone gangbusters so far. Most of the time she stands there, with her arms crossed and that same as ever are you kidding me expression. But Arnie’s of a hopeful mindset…one day, she’ll see it.”

Ms. Jeannie got a little help from the inscription on this photo postcard…

bobbie

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This is what she thought was going on inside Bobbie’s world…

“Oh that Bobbie – she’s quite a clever kidder, calling her beau a schnook like that. She hopes this subtle Merry Christmas postcard tactic is all that she will need to make handsome Dean realize that she is quite over the moon for him. It’s only taken her the whole semester to get her nerve up – but what the heck does she have to lose now? It’s Christmastime and she’s feeling hopeful. She’ll just slide it under Dean’s dorm room door before she heads home for the holiday. Let him stew on that during winter break!”

Of course, all these photographs are open to interpretation,. You may see something totally different in the bathing beauties or in Bobbie’s cheering stance,  but that is sort of the fun of these old photographs. Don’t you think?

Following this train of thought, Ms. Jeannie came up with a fun little challenge for all of you dear readers!

Here it is..

What is this scene all about?

What is this scene all about?

Now it is your turn to come up with the back story about this picture above!  Write your own quick little story snippet about this photograph and email it to msjeannieology[at]yahoo.com

It doesn’t have to be long… just a few sentences is great.  The most creative entry, as determined by Mr. Jeannie Ology (for fairness, of course) will win the picture! The challenge will be open for one week so be sure to get your entries in by midnight on Tuesday, February 26th. Winner will be announced via blog post, and also email, on Wednesday, February 27th.

Lucky for you – there’s a little extra help with this challenge! On the back of the photo, written in pencil, it says…

“Grace & Me. I have on Grace’s hat and she has mine on.” 

Here’s a few more close-up views of the photograph. In case you want to know the size – it measures 2.5″ inches x 3.5″ inches.

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Good luck and happy imagining!!!