A Sparkling Vintage Life

Monthly Archives: May 2016

Memorial Day: a day of remembrance and thanks


Several men in my family tree have served in the military, but the only one I know of who died in a war was my grandfather’s brother. He was Corporal John F. Lamont of Company F-132nd Infantry, and he was killed in action on October 9, 1918, in the Argonne. Those are just facts from the Internet. I wish I knew more about him. Maybe over time, I will be able to learn more. I would love to know what he was like, what he looked like, what his kind of personality he had, how he enjoyed spending his time before his life was cruelly snuffed out.

Families and friends of the deceased have decorated graves since time immemorial, but Memorial Day–an official day to honor those who gave their lives in military service–dates from the 1860s, right after the American Civil War. There is some controversy over when and where the first official Memorial Day actually took place, with Columbus, Georgia; Columbus, Missouri; and Waterloo, New York being among the possible launch spots (newspaper misinformation is blamed for the confusion–’twas ever thus). Whatever the origin, on April 26, 1866,the  graves of Confederate casualties of the Civil War were decorated with flowers, hence the name Decoration Day. Some Southern women were generous enough to also place flowers on the graves of Union soldiers buried in that region. This gracious gesture made the news, and the custom spread northward.

In 1868, Decoration Day was moved from April to May 30, so that chilly Northerners would also have some flowers to place on graves. In time the name changed to Memorial Day and expanded to honor those killed in all wars, not just the Civil War. The date remained May 30 until 1971, when the it was changed to the last Monday of May in accordance with the federal Uniform Monday Holiday Act (although a handful of hardy Southerners still cling to April 26).

Though some may resist smudging a perfect spring weekend with somber thoughts, I think it’s important to remember and to grieve. So many young men and women have given their lives for our freedom. This weekend, let’s each take at least a few moments between barbecues and ball games to remember those who gave their lives for their country and honor the sacrifice they’ve made. If you know of a particular soldier, sailor, or marine, perhaps someone in your family or town or circle of friends and acquaintances, tell their stories to your children. so that the memories will live on.


Sparkling Vintage Health: Steps on the Journey

tennis2Last week I wrote about wanting to improve my health and what the pre-World War II ladies magazines call “vitality.” I looked up “vitality” in the dictionary. The first definition is, “the peculiarity of distinguishing the living from the nonliving.” That’s telling it like it is!

So far my old-fashioned approach has been two-pronged: walking a lot and choosing fresh, unprocessed food as much as possible. In the May sunshine, walking is pleasant and I actually look forward to it, but making time for it can feel like a hurdle. Twice in recent days I’ve been stuck “in town” between appointments (“town” being about 15 miles away from our rural home) and have used that time to walk in a park. I told myself I didn’t need workout clothes or athletic shoes (although, note to self: keep a pair in the car). I was already wearing comfortable flats, so off I went.

Walking in the park is fun for two reasons: (1) the terrain is flat–a nice break from the steep hills around my home. (My husband figured out that walking from the bottom of our property to the top is like climbing eight stories!) and (2) there are people around! Baseball and lacrosse teams, kids and moms on the playground, tennis players, other walkers . . . such fun to people-watch. I love to nature-watch, too, and soak up the peace and solitude of the woods surrounding my home, but for a literal change of pace, it’s enjoyable to switch to the park. Bonus: I felt like that interval between appointments wasn’t wasted.

Feeding myself well is harder. It’s so easy to grab whatever’s at hand and call it a meal. I’ve made a deliberate effort to concentrate on protein and vegetables and limited carbs. A typical breakfast is coffee, an egg, and a quarter of an avocado on toast. Lunch is soup or salad and a sandwich (trying to limit to half a sandwich). Dinner is meat or fish and vegetables for me, plus bread or potatoes for my husband. And water, water, water.

So where does the “vintage” part come in? Eating fresh, minimally processed food and walking have been human activities since forever. I don’t need a gym or any special gadgetry (although I got a nifty fitness band for my birthday that tracks my steps and heart rate–definitely not vintage, but kind of useful). The foods I’m eating are not much different from what a woman would have eaten 100 years ago.  My fitness is centered around typical human activities: walking, bending, stretching, putting some muscle into housework and yardwork. Drop me into 1916 and my food and activity wouldn’t look that different. Except, of course, from jumping on the Internet to talk about it!

First week’s results: two pounds down, high energy, and rosy cheeks from being out in the sun.

The rightness of white for summer

white suit

Christian Dior, 1952

Inspired by this post by Jessica Cangiano over at Chronically Vintage about wearing white, I’ve got white on my mind as we swoop toward summer and, in particular, Memorial Day–the traditional kickoff to the season of wearing white, at least here in the U.S. Although this “rule” is no longer strictly adhered to, there is something fresh and clean about white that belongs to summer.

White calls to mind fluffy clouds blown about by warm breezes, damp cotton flapping in the sunshine, June brides, sails on boats skimming over blue lakes, thick cream poured over fresh berries, and great bowls of vanilla ice cream (my favorite!). White was the favored choice for Edwardian tea gowns and nightgowns. And who can forget the “girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes” immortalized in the song, “My Favorite Things” from The

"Young woman in a white dress" by Harry Watson

“Young woman in a white dress” by Harry Watson

Sound of Music?

That said, I admit that there’s not a lot of white hanging in my closet at the moment. Just the stray shirt or tank-top. Why is that? I tend to steer clear of white on the bottom because of my size (white enlarges, visually). And white worn on top can seem impractical, an invitation to spills and stains.But the more I think about it, the more I want to incorporate more white in my wardrobe this summer, even if it does require a little extra care and vigilance.

Source: modcloth.com

Source: modcloth.com


What do you think about white?


We have a winner!

Anchor in the StormHappy Monday! The randomly selected winner of a free copy of ANCHOR IN THE STORM is . . . {drum roll} . . . Tisha Martin!

Congratulations, Tisha! I’ve sent you an instant message on Facebook. Please give me your mailing address, either on FB or shoot me an email: jenny (at) jenniferlamontleo.com.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the drawing. I’ve loved discovering a community of readers who enjoy Sarah Sundin’s books as much as I do. Be sure to check out Anchor in the Storm. You’ll love it!


Sparkling Vintage Reads and Giveaway!: An Interview with Sarah Sundin

Anchor in the StormOne of my very favorite historical eras to read about is World War II, a naturally dramatic time period that lends itself to engaging stories. With eight novels set in that time period, Sarah Sundin has become a master of the genre. Her latest book, Anchor in the Storm, has just released from Revell to widespread acclaim. Publishers Weekly said, “Sundin, exhibiting her usual flair for 1940s history and setting, will delight WWII buffs.” Booklist called it “an optimal hybrid of 1940s crime and romance” And RT (Romantic Times) Book Review gave it four stars, saying, “Full of exciting intrigue . . . just the right amount of romance to balance out the drama.”

Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin

Here’s the scoop: For plucky Lillian Avery, America’s entry into World War II means a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. She loves the wartime challenges of her new job but spurns the attention of society boy Ens. Archer Vandenberg. As Arch’s destroyer battles U-boats along the East Coast, Lillian uncovers a black market drug ring. Arch and Lillian work together on the investigation, but can he ever earn her trust and affection?

If you’d like to enter to win a free copy of Anchor in the Storm, simply post a comment below or send an e-mail to jenny (at) jenniferlamontleo.com. The winner will be drawn at random on Monday, May 9, 2016, and I’ll notify the winner.

Jennifer Lamont Leo: Welcome, Sarah. Anchor in the Storm is the second release in your Waves of Freedom series, set during World War II.* What has intrigued you about this time in history?

Sarah Sundin: The World War II era has always fascinated me—and not just because of the swinging music, cute dresses, and men in uniform. It was a time when ordinary men learned they could do extraordinary things, and when women tried exciting new roles. The war highlighted the darkest nature of humanity, but it also brought out the best. It’s an era full of drama, daring, and romance—perfect for a novel.

JLL: What sparked your imagination for this particular story?

SS: My husband and I are both pharmacists. A few years ago he made a transition from medical research to community pharmacy, and he was stunned at the extent of the narcotic abuse epidemic that’s now making the news. He cracked down on shady prescriptions, and my novelist’s brain began to churn. What if he angered someone big in the illegal drug community? But what if it happened in World War II? And the pharmacist was a woman? And I gave her a physical disability to make things even more interesting…?

JLL: Tell us a bit about your research process for Anchor in the Storm. Do you have any favorite resources for World War II research?

SS: For starters, I had to research life in the US Navy, the U-boat war off America’s East Coast, pharmacy practice, and Boston during World War II. My favorite resource for WWII military research is the HyperWar website, which contains hundreds of documents—manuals, official histories, and more. For researching the Battle of the Atlantic, I’ve been a frequent visitor at uboat.net, an extraordinarily thorough and well-researched site. For Lillian’s story, my favorite resource was a book called Pharmacy in World War II by Dennis Worthen.

JLL: What do you most hope readers will take away from Anchor in the Storm?

SS: Both Arch and Lillian have placed their identity and security in their careers. But when those careers are threatened, so is that identity, that security. I hope readers will learn along with Arch and Lillian that our true identity rests in Christ alone, and that the Lord is our security. That’s the “hope we have as an anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19).

JLL: Are there any particular challenges you’re facing in your writing life these days?

SS: My family is going through a lot of change. Our oldest son graduated from college and got a Real Job, our daughter got married—and they’re all living a full day’s drive away. Our youngest son graduates from high school next month and ships out to Navy boot camp this summer. These are all happy and wonderful things, but change is…change. And deadlines are deadlines.

JLL: How do you stay spiritually grounded during the writing and publishing process?

SS: God has a way of keeping me grounded and bonking me on the head any time that head threatens to get swollen. I can count on it—and I’m glad of it. He’s also placed wonderful, godly friends in my life who know me as “Sarah,” not as “Sarah Sundin, Author.” They slap me upside the head when I get whiny or fretful or just plain annoying. With all the head-bonking and head-slapping, I should have a concussion by now.

JLL: What are you reading these days?

SS:  Funny you should ask, because I recently finished a charming, sparkling novel called You’re the Cream in My Coffee, by a certain Jennifer Lamont Leo (shameless plug intended).

JLL: You are too kind. 🙂 🙂 🙂

SS: And I just started reading another debut novel called Close to You, by Kara Isaac—it’s about a woman who conducts Tolkien tours in New Zealand and a man who’s stuck on a tour against his will. Great fun!

JLL: What’s on your music playlist?

SS: An awful lot of big band music! Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, the Andrews Sisters, Artie Shaw. I love it, and it puts me “In the Mood” to write my stories. Now it’s your turn to slap me.

JLL: What’s the next book project coming up for you?

SS: The third book in the Waves of Freedom series, When Tides Turn, is going through edits right now, and I’m starting work on my new series about three estranged brothers who fight on D-Day from the sea, the air, and the ground.

JLL: Thank you so much, Sarah. Anchors in the Storm is a marvelous story.

SS: Thank you so much for hosting me today!

*(Breaking news: The first book in the series, Through Waters Deep, has just been named a finalist in the prestigious INSPY Awards for faith-driven fiction!)

About Sarah: Sarah Sundin is the author of eight historical novels, including Anchor in the Storm. Her novel Through Waters Deep was named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years,” and her novella “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in Where Treetops Glisten was a finalist for the 2015 Carol Award. A mother of three, Sarah lives in California, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school. http://www.sarahsundin.com

Disclosure: I’ve been given a review copy of this book by the publisher. This generosity, while appreciated, has not biased my review. I also post some of my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

Sparkling Vintage Health: Shaping My Future

Hikers, 1940s.

Hikers, 1940s.

This is going to be one of my more vulnerable posts, but I’m sharing it with you because I know that at least a few of you struggle with a similar issue: health and fitness. My doctor, my scale, my own eyeballs in the mirror, my recent birthday, and the summer clothing I’m pulling out of hibernation (not necessarily in that order) have convinced me for the umpteenth time that it’s time to Do Something About My Health.

I lost a few pounds last summer, but over the winter they came wandering back. They missed me! So now I’m back to having plenty of pounds to lose, if the standard BMI calculators are to be trusted, which I think they are, more or less. But I also know that my weight is not the real problem, but a symptom of other problems. Middle age and its attendant physical changes have hit me with a whallop. I’ve also become increasingly aware that the foods many of us eat these days are quick, convenient, tasty . . . and detrimental to our health. A heart-to-heart with my doctor, plus research into the way most Americans ate and moved 50 or 75 or 100 years ago vs. today, has gotten me interested in pursing a “vintage” lifestyle of smaller portions, more seasonal and local produce, and fewer processed foods.fat ad

As far as exercise goes, I’m not a gym rat. In fact, I’m about as far from a gym rat as you can get. I’m one of the most uncoordinated people I know. My muscles seem improperly strung and most standard gyms make me feel profoundly ungainly and out-of-place. Plus, I live on a mountainside surrounded by steep hills and endless trails, literally outside my front door. There’s fitness in them thar hills! So for now, with the weather turning nice, rambling over the hills will be my main exercise, along with some simple bodyweight exercises thrown in for strength and flexibility. At some point I may need to join a gym to gain access to certain equipment (and a swimming pool!) but maybe I’ll think about that in the fall. For now, dickering over the gym question would just be one more way to procrastinate.

"Exercise With Gloria" Source: Kevin Dooley via flickr.com/Creative Commons

“Exercise With Gloria”
Source: Kevin Dooley via flickr.com/Creative Commons

My earliest memory of exercise was as a preschooler, moving along with my mom as she watched “Exercise With Gloria” on our old black-and-white TV. I only remember doing this a smattering of times, so I don’t think it caught on with my mother, who was naturally slim and not much of an athlete, although she walked a lot and enjoyed dancing and swimming. Still, I remember the joy of swinging my arms and legs and moving my body, and I did enjoy ballet classes as a very young child, until I switched teachers to a fearsome woman who yelled a lot, and that was the end of my ballet career.

I’m pretty sure that’s the last time I found “exercise” to be fun. School gym class is something I do my best to forget, Nevertheless there are a million and one reasons to “just do it,” as the Nike people say.

fat ad2Because I’ve been immersed in vintage reading materials, doing research for another project, I’ve decided to take a journey this summer, researching old-fashioned health and fitness advice–the good, the bad, the laughable, and the downright cuckoo (tapeworms, anyone?)–and adopting those practices that make sense to me and my doc. I would love to have some companions on the journey! I should state right now that I am not a doctor, nurse, health specialist, exercise guru, nutritional know-it-all, or any other type of professional. Just a woman interested in approaching health and fitness the way it used to be, when it was less of an obsession, and seeing what I learn along the way. If you’d like to join me, or even just offer a word of encouragement, comment below or e-mail me privately at jennifer (at) jenniferlamontleo (d0t) com. Once in a while I’ll report in on this blog and let you know how it’s going.


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