The Little Free Library

Mom and Dad would have loved the concept of the Little Free Libraries, but I don’t think the idea had reached their small town yet. They always had a box near the back door where their already-read books ended up if they weren’t authors that they kept. It filled quickly as they were voracious readers.

The books went home with their daughters or were donated to the library book sale or taken to a paperback trade-in store when there was one in their community. More books continually arrived from discoveries at yard sales or brought by their daughters when they visited.

A continuous supply of books was always coming in and out of the house plus their old favorites filled the commodious bookshelves that Clyde constructed to fit the long wall in their living room. Still, they would have found pleasure in dropping off books to a Little Free Library to share their love of reading with others who might not have a ready supply of books.

How to Start a Little Free Library in Your Community

  1. Choose a location: The first step in setting up a Little Book Library is to choose a location. It can be anywhere you think people will be interested in borrowing books, such as your front yard, a local park, or a community center. Check that it is OK to put one there.
  2. Build or buy a bookshelf: You can either build your own Little Book Library or purchase one online. There are many resources available online for building a bookshelf, including free plans and tutorials. It needs to be weatherproof.
  3. Decorate the bookshelf: Once you have your bookshelf, you can decorate it to make it more attractive and eye-catching. Paint it a bright color, add some artwork or decorations, and make sure it is easily visible to people passing by.
  4. Stock it with books: Now it’s time to add books to your Little Book Library. You can start with books from your own collection, ask friends and family to donate books or you can purchase books from a secondhand bookstore or thrift store.
  5. Spread the word: Let your community know about your Little Book Library by posting about it on social media, putting up flyers in the area, and telling your neighbors. You can also add your Little Book Library to the official Little Free Library world map.
  6. Maintain the bookshelf: Make sure to check on your Little Book Library regularly to ensure it is in good condition and well-stocked with books. You may need to clean it, add more books, or make repairs as necessary.

By following these steps, you can set up a Little Book Library that will bring joy and literacy to your community.

Feeling Artistic

Mom was always encouraging her children and grandchildren in their artistic endeavors. I wish I could share with her the latest artistic outlet that’s a lot of fun for me. The nifty part of this art, created with AI (artificial intelligence), is I don’t need to take a painting class, buy any paint or brushes or canvas, and don’t actually need any talent.

Two Pictures I Created with AI

The first pictures I made on NightCafe, the free AI site that I tried) were disappointingly murky, not distinct, and with odd anatomical issues. It turns out there is a slight learning curve to making art with AI. I joined a Facebook group where AI creators were sharing their tips and thanks to their advice, my AI art improved.

You write a prompt for the artificial intelligence telling it what you want the picture to look like and then you add the names of some artists that you want to influence the resulting image. I realized that I should have paid more attention 40 years ago in college art history class. Trying to visualize what Degas or Klee or Picasso would do with the picture I was trying to create wasn’t easy.

Fortunately, some creators show their settings so I could pick up artists’ names to apply to mine. Gradually, I assembled a list of old favorites to use (Alphonse Mucha, Arthur Rackham, Norman Rockwell, Beatrix Potter). I also found some new-to-me artists to get the look I wanted (Dittman, Rutkowski, and others). I learned art terms like depth of field, volumetric lighting, maximalist, photo illustration, anime style, pointillism, and other art movements and styles.

Design created by Virginia Allain using AI on NightCafe

I learned from others how to screen out undesirable treatments by putting “negative prompts.” That reduced issues like poorly drawn faces, extra limbs, blurry, grainy, too dark, and other issues.

NightCafe gives users 5 credits each day to play around with. It encourages social interaction by giving more credits for liking others’ creations or following other creators or winning in the daily contest. Really dedicated users can also spend money to get additional features. So far, I’ve been quite happy using the free parts and learning how to make the scenes I want. You can see more of my creations at NightCafe.

The Shabby Old Quilt

My sister sent me a small heart made from a fragment of a worn-out quilt. Some people gasp in horror at the idea of cutting up a damaged quilt. To me, the horror is when I see people tossing a quilt on the ground for a picnic blanket or using it for their dog’s bed. “It’s old,” they say as an excuse for the careless treatment. Later, they look at its tatters and toss the shabby quilt into the trash. That’s sad.

Over the years, I’ve rescued old quilts from yard sales and stored them in my closet. Too worn out to display, but I feel protective of them. Someone spent hours, days, weeks even, sewing those pieces together to make a quilt top and then quilting and binding it. It was colorful on their bed and kept them warm. Maybe it was made as a gift to delight a bride or celebrate a special event.

So, the small heart that my sister cut from a quilt fragment held a special meaning for me. She added her own stitches to finish the edges and knowing my love of old quilts, she mailed it to me along with a larger piece of the quilt. I was fascinated to see the layers exposed that an even older quilt was sandwiched inside it. The colors and patterns of the fabric seemed to me quite old, likely from the 1800s.

The Vintage Quilted Heart

(created using ChatGPT with some adjustments by Virginia Allain)

The vintage quilted heart,
Stitched with love and care,
A symbol of the memories,
We hold so dear and rare.

Each patch, a moment in time,
Of laughter and of tears,
Of joys and sorrows intertwined,
Throughout the passing years.

The fabric, soft and worn with age,
A reflection of our past,
The colors, faded but still bright,
Forever may they will last.

And though the stitching may come loose,
And some patches fall apart,
I’ll keep this salvaged remnant
Made into this small heart.

For it is a part of us,
That survives despite its age,,
It’s part of who we are,
A symbol of our heritage.

So let us cherish this treasure,
And keep it safe from harm,
The textures and the workmanship,
It’s a talisman with enduring charm.

Honoring Mom and Dad

Karen Kolavalli is our guest blogger today:

Mom and Dad have been on my mind a lot lately.  After they passed ten years ago, I acquired most of their extensive book collection.  In the years since they’ve been gone, the books have mostly stayed in boxes as I moved around the country, but recently I’ve been working to get them ready to sell.  The bulk of their collection consists of well-read turn-of-the-century novels, with “well-read” translating to heavily used, worn, and sometimes just barely holding together!  Booksellers will often list these as being in “rough condition”.  Indeed.  😉 

As I research the books, I’ve been surprised to find that many of them are quite rare and would command very nice prices–if only they were in better condition.  I spent a number of years as an online sales volunteer for a large Friends of the Library organization.  I had been a hobby bookseller online for a long time, but I definitely upped my game with the bookselling skills I developed working with the high-volume Friends operation. 

I started teaching myself how to do minor book repairs as a volunteer.  After I “retired” from volunteering and put more energy into my online bookselling business, I got serious about doing a better job on book repairs.  With the onset of the pandemic two years ago, I’ve had even more time to devote to restoring/conserving my folks’ books. 

Marie Kennedy Joy’s book (from the collection of Gail and Clyde Martin)

One of the first of those books was actually one that my paternal grandmother, Cora Joy Martin, had given to her mother, Marie Kennedy Joy.  It was then handed down to my dad, Clyde Martin.  Before I noticed the family connection, the book was headed to the donation box because it was in such bad condition.  But when I saw the personal inscriptions, I decided to give it a second chance.  “Helen of the Old House” was written by Harold Bell Wright.  Mom and Dad had a large collection of his books; Mom was proud that one of the characters in Wright’s “The Shepherd of the Hills” was based on her mother’s cousin, Fiddlin’ Jake Vining. 

Riddle me this–exactly how many copies of “The Shepherd of the Hills” does one family need, even factoring in the family connection to one of the characters?! 

Another project. Mom and Dad were huge fans of the western author Zane Grey.

It’s amazing that the paper book jacket survived over the years. Zane Grey’s The Man of the Forest.

Yum – Cherry Mash


Remember this candy? It’s celebrating a big birthday. Chhaya K., “I need some Cherry Mash in the special centennial wrapper!”

When Chhaya posted this video about Cherry Mash, it set off a lively discussion with memories of the candy. Gail Martin loved it and apparently her daughter, Shannon, did too. 


Gail’s granddaughter, Robin Calhoun commented, “I love these!”
Karen K. “Can’t get them here in Kentucky. ☹”

Robin Calhoun, “I’ll have to look to see if we get them here.”
Karen K. “in Eureka?”
Robin Calhoun “Yea”
Lola Beshirs Hicks, “They are wonderful and hard to find. Yummmmmy!”

Karen K. – “Mom used to hide her stash of them when we were kids. We never got to have them–we had to do a 3-way share of a Snickers or Milky Way or 3 Musketeers!”

Gail’s granddaughter, Diana Platt remembered, “My mom used to eat them, but she somehow convinced us they were gross old person food, like divinity or saltwater taffy. To this day I’ve never tried one.”

Karen K. – “Can’t get my mind around the concept that divinity, saltwater taffy, and Cherry Mash are old person food! And gross?! You’ve never tried ANY of them?!”



Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

1911 – The McGhee Children

My grandfather, Clarence McGhee, stands tall with his younger siblings in this photo. In looking for photos of men in hats, this one caught my attention. Fortunately, my mother had neatly labeled the back of the postcard. Clarence would have been 15 or 16 in this picture. The littlest one, Elmer, would just have been a year old. Two more children were born after this date.

1911 Clarence McGhee and siblings

The McGhee children in Tyro, KS in 1911 Back (L to R) – Clarence, Jesse, Roy Front (L to R) – Bertha, Lealon, Loren, Elmer

1911 McGhee children including clarence

I hadn’t examined the details of the photo before. My guess would be that it’s Sunday and they are ready to walk the few blocks to church. Several of the boys have a pin on their lapel which might be a Sunday School pin. Bertha has a flower pinned on her dress, so maybe it isn’t merely a Sunday. Maybe it is a special occasion such as the wedding of someone the family knew.

Three of the boys are old enough for long pants, but two are still in knickers. Jesse looks like he’s still growing into his jacket, but Roy’s coat has sleeves that are too short for him. Lealon and Loren have the loose ties popularized by the Little Lord Fauntleroy book but were spared the wide lace collar and the fancy cap. Elmer is still young enough to be in a dress.

No one looks very enthused about the photo session but perhaps they were inhibited by admonitions not to move. Unfortunately, the two youngest boys did move and so are preserved forever in blurred form.

Bertha has her hair in braids that are coiled or pinned up with bows for the occasion.

The Sepia Saturday Inspiration Photo

You can see what the other bloggers wrote for this week’s Sepia Saturday blog challenge.

sepia saturday 29 aug


Gail’s Glass Chain

My mother had a glass chain that her father, Clarence McGhee, made while working at the glass factory in Tyro, Kansas. The workers made glass chimneys for oil lamps back in the early part of the 1900s. At the end of the day, when some molten glass was left, they made whimsies for themselves.

glass chain pic by KK

Each of the daughters (Melba, Gail, and C.J.) received a section of the chain and kept it as a family treasure. By now, the chain is over 100 years old.

Glass factory - Clarence McGhee standing on pallet 54 kg too small

The workers at the Tyro Glass Plant about 1910. Clarence McGhee is the young man standing on the pallet.

Here’s another photo of the glass plant workers.

1910 tyro glass plant from bob harlan

Photo courtesy of my cousin, Bob Harlan

What made me think of these pictures was an inspiration photo from the Sepia Saturday Blog Challenge. Their picture of workers and a chain is quite different. To see what other bloggers wrote about the challenge, just click on the link.

sepia saturday aug 15

For further history of the glass factory, here’s an earlier article, The Tyro Glass Plant Moves to Sand Springs.

Hard at Work

As you know, I try to match the topic each Saturday with the challenge photo on the Sepia Saturday blog. This week just about defeated me. The photo showed train tracks and a trestle with houses on steep hillsides. How would I find anything like that in our family photo albums?

I settled on a vintage photo of my grandmother’s brother, Lester Vining. It was taken in Taney County, Missouri. That location may sound familiar to some, as it is where Branson, Missouri is. Long before the area became a tourist destination, the people in the Ozarks made a living as best they could.

This sentence from Settlers in the Ozarks explains what Luther is doing. It was a hard way to make a living with a crosscut saw, an ax, and a team of horses.

The first sustained boom to the area’s economy resulted from the harvesting of local timber when the nation’s expanding rail system created demand for a seemingly endless supply of cross ties.

lester vining logging

I’m guessing that the photo is around 1912 as I have a companion photo of Luther with his horses. The photo is from Melba McGhee Harlan’s collection (Luther was her uncle). Note that Luther has the same hat on in both photos. He would have been 23-years-old in 1912.

luther vining & horses

Here’s the Sepia Saturday photo that set the theme for my family story. It’s interesting to see what other bloggers post on the theme.

To learn more about Luther Vining’s life, visit our family history blog, Then And Now.

Karori Electric Tramway Postcard (Via Flickr Commons) Sepia Saturday 532

Karori Electric Tramway Postcard (Via Flickr Commons) Sepia Saturday 532

The Old Grocery Store

Time for another photo match-up. Actually, the example photo showing a vintage street scene is in color, not the usual sepia ones that Sepia Saturday shares. That gives me more options to find a similar scene in our family photo stash. Let’s see what I find.

Sepia Saturday 521 Theme Image, Lincoln Nabraska in Colour

Sepia Saturday Theme Image, Lincoln, Nebraska, in Colour

First I found an old grocery store in Tyro, Kansas. My Vining and McGhee branches of the family lived there, as did some of the Babcocks and the Towers. This photo was kindly lent to me by Jack Irwin who is related to some of the founders of Tyro. His great-grandfather, Joseph Lenhart ran this store.

1st store in Tyro run by jack irwins great grandfather Joseph Lenhart

1907 Deuel store in Tyro

1907 – Inside the store in Tyro, Kansas.

My next find was the Moore Brothers Grocery in Teterville, Kansas. You can read more about this store and my mother’s memories of it in Just Shopping and Teterville Chat. This photo is at the history museum in Eureka, Kansas where they have quite a nice exhibit about Teterville.

teterville store photo from eureka museum

Photo from the Eureka Museum of the Moore’s Store in Teterville, Kansas

I have one more story to share, but sadly, no photo of this grocery store. My grandfather, Ren Martin, had a grocery store in Reading, Kansas, after he retired.


Hang Onto Your Hat

The inspiration photo for this Saturday features a vintage bicycle with a sidecar. The lady riding in that sidecar was wisely hanging onto her hat as they zipped along. Now, I’ve already shared my photo of my grandmother on a motorcycle and one showing my great-uncle and my grandfather with bicycles, so I don’t have any more of those in the family album.

sepia saturday july 25

I could find some photos of the family in hats over the years, but not that many ladies with hats. In Kansas with the wind blowing across the prairies, you needed to hang onto your hat even when you weren’t zipping along in a bike with a sidecar.

Our Family Hats Over the Years

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Scrounging a bit further in the family photos, I did find 2 bicycle pictures that you probably haven’t seen.

dated on front 8-16-1912, house with man, woman, 2 boys with bicycles

Unknown family with bicycles

sam mcghee and bicycle maybe

Great-grandfather Samuel McGhee