I think my love of the west and cowboys grew out of my love for my grandparents’ Iowa farm. I loved that place. I did a lot of thinking and dreaming there. I also learned a lot, mainly from my grandmother. The older I get the more I appreciate what I learned from her. She was an incredibly strong woman, but she possessed a quiet strength. She worked the farm and raised six children. I always thought her the most patient person I knew. She never had a cross word for anyone, and I can count on one hand the number of times she lost her temper.
My grandmother always made time for me and my endless questions. Such a simple gift, her time and attention, and yet, such an important one. And I had a lot of questions about whatever she was doing, whether it be gardening, crocheting, sewing or cooking. All of which I still enjoy doing today.
One day when she was making one of my two favorite treats, cream puffs–the other was her angle food cake with fresh strawberries–I asked questions and wrote down what she told me. Because of my curiosity, I have my grandmother’s recipe for cream puffs.
For a holiday gift, I’m sharing her recipe with you.
½ C butter
½ tsp salt
1 C water
1 C sifted flour
Combine butter, salt and water in heavy saucepan. Bring to a hard boil. Remove from heat and dump in flour all at once. Stir until the mixture sticks together in a ball and leaves the edges of the pan. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Cool 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating until egg has been completely absorbed. Drop by tablespoonful, heaping in the middle, on greased baking sheet with 3 inches between each. Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce temperature to 350 and bake 10 minutes. Do not open oven during baking or cream puffs could
4 Tablespoons sugar
2 egg yolks (beaten)
1 heaping Tablespoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons milk
In a heavy saucepan, bring 1 C milk to a boil. Stir in above mixture. Reduce heat and cook until thick. When cool combine with ½ pint whipped heavy cream.
Leave a comment about your favorite holiday treat and be entered to win a cup and plate set along with a copy of Family Ties. May 2019 be filled with many wonders and joys for you and your family, and remember, of all the gifts you can give, the best is your time and attention.
Last month I wrote about how doing less could make for a better holiday. I truly believe that, but this year I pushed the cutting back on the holiday production to the limits.
It was one of those years when my dear hubby and I couldn’t get our act together. It started with our tree, but continued all the way through New Year’s Day. Normally, we decorate the tree the day after Thanksgiving, but this year everyone had other activities. Hubby and I kept saying we’d get it done, but three days before Christmas, there we were, still without a tree. While we did put one up and had lights, we never did put on the ornaments. But you know what? To paraphrase Dr. Seuss and my husband, “Christmas was just fine.”
I’ve spent years working to overcome my perfectionist nature. In the past I became upset when little things went wrong or didn’t get done because I felt everything had to be perfect. I missed opportunities to be present in the moment because I believed I had to be perfect.
This year I realized I do write what I know. My characters, especially my heroines, often struggle with trying to please everyone. They wrestle with the idea that their self-worth is tied to their accomplishments and others’ approval. They’re trying to be perfect. Those characters learn the journey can be as important as the destination.
Over the years while I’ve learned that lesson, I do backslide. (I felt guilty about cutting so many holiday corners, but not too guilty.) So, I’ve decided this year I’m making changes regarding New Year’s resolutions. My BFF Lori quotes a blog written by Jen Hatmaker on January 5, 2015 entitled “The Thing About Being More Awesome.” (If you want to read the blog go to http://www.Jenhatmaker.com.) She claims many resolutions set us up for failure and revolve around trying to be “more awesome.” We think we need to be the best author, mother, friend, spouse, and the list goes on. She insists, “The finish line to this particular rat race is THE GRAVE.” Lori and I joke about making a sign with the resolution Try To Be Less Awesome. Translation—quit trying to be perfect. So that’s what I’m going to do in 2018.
The best I can do is good enough, and I’m going to celebrate it. I’m giving myself permission to say yes to what gives me joy, no to what doesn’t, and to feel less guilty about both. Life is too short to live it any other way.
When my perfectionist starts nagging me, I plan to tell myself to quit trying to be more awesome. Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment about what helps you when you find yourself trying to do too much, and be entered for a chance to win the ornament and a Leather and Lace scented candle from my favorite shop Rustic Ranch!
I’m so pleased to be the first Filly to kick off 2018! I hope each of you had a great holiday and the coming year will be even better.
Yesterday, as I wrote my blog for today, I began to think…”What in heck am I going to do with the leftovers from the holiday? Be it candy and goodies, that I sure don’t need, to great food like ham and turkey with all the fixin’s.” It made me wonder what and how the holiday season was celebrated during the 1800’s. So, I pitched what I had planned to write and began checking
out the idea. I’m thrilled to share with you some thought provoking ideas.
What kind of beverage who the pioneers drink to welcome in the New Year?
Champagne: used throughout the 1800’s
Ale cocktail: a mixed drink comprised of ale, ginger, and pepper beginning in 1838;
Apple brandy a/k/a Apple Jack: a liquor distilled from apple cider;
Brandy sour: brandy, lime or lemon juice and carbonated water, from the 1860’s;
Brandy toddy: brandy mixed with hot water and sugar;
Cocktail: got its name by 1806 for any mixed alcoholic drink;
Martini: comprised of gin and vermouth also briefly known as a Martinez; and
Syllabub: a drink I’d never heard of. It’s similar to eggnog, but made with white wine, brandy, sugar, and whipped cream. It was traditionally served at Christmas early in the century, especially in Charleston.
Tea: The first Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, or A&P, opened in 1859 on Vesey Street in NYC. Its rows of tea bins contained teas from around the world. By 1880, there were 95 A&P stores from Boston to Milwaukee.
Coffee: Although tea was the preferred beverage until the Civil War, coffee was lightened with Borden condensed milk as early as the 1860’s. Yes, you read that correct, the condensed milk we use today. Chase and Sanborn coffee was sold in sealed cans around 1878. Maxwell canned coffee followed the following year.
Now, what would the kids enjoy, in the way of candy?
Pretty much the same as today…peanut brittle, fudge, pralines and popcorn balls. After the mind 1800’s, gumdrops and jujube paste became available. Penny candy came in later. Chocolate was available throughout the century; with milk chocolate being invented later.
Christmas dinner was just about the same as today, depending on the part of the country you came from and your wealth. Turkey, chestnut dressing, roasted pig, celery, hot rolls, cranberry sauce and potatoes. Desserts ran today’s gamut…mincemeat pie, pumpkin pie, and one of my favorites being a Texas girl with a Southern mother, sweet potato pie. We enjoyed mincemeat because of my Ohio born and raised Daddy.
One of my favorite items, which I’ve never tried, is beaten biscuits. Eaten in the South for breakfast prior to the Civil War, the name was derived from the dough, which had to be repeatedly pounded with a hammer or mallet to knead it.
In my story No Time for Love in the anthology Give Me a Cowboy, which was my first published work with Kensington, with fellow Filly Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, and the late DeWanna Pace, I used this for a scene. Here is the back blurb: “Newspaperman Quinten Corbett wasn’t expecting his new apprentice to be female. Boston-born Kaire Renaulde is far too refined for a rough-and-tumble frontier town—and far too pretty for his peace of mind….’ It was fun to write and I hope you enjoyed if you’ve read the story.
I could write the rest of the day on interesting foods for the holiday in the 1800’s, but I think I’ll leave you to ponder over what I’ve tossed your way. After all, I have eggnog left over and is waiting for me before an open fire, while my darlin’ hubby watches football.
In my neck of the woods, the Texas Panhandle, we celebrate New Year’s Day with a larrupin’ serving of black-eyed peas and cornbread. When I was growing up, we also had corned beef and cabbage. Now, I confess that Mama won out. Daddy, being from the North, said black-eyed peas were thrown to the hogs, but I guess to keep peace she added mincemeat pie to the holiday menu. Such wonderful memories.
Is there any special meal you serve for New Year’s Eve or Day?
To two readers who leave a comment, I will be giving away their an autographed copy of Give Me a Texan or if you already have read it, I’ll offer an eBook of your choice.
What a difference a year…or four days…make. Decorations are put away and the good times stored in my memory. It’s time to look forward to the future and I do think this will be an easier year.
In 2018, I’ll reissue The Cowboy Who Came Calling in February (Book #2 of Texas Heroes) and TO CATCH A TEXAS STAR in July (Book #3.) Those will wind up the series in a fine fashion before I start releasing Outlaws Mail Order Brides in January 2019.
But whoa there! I’m getting ahead of myself. 2017 has a few a more days left.
I’m supposed to write about resolutions except I don’t make New Year resolutions. Never have. So here’s a compromise—I’m just going to call these Ten New Year’s thoughts.
I want to write more books that not only entertain but leave you with something to ponder.
I want to make this a fun year as much as I’m able.
I plan to dance in the rain and celebrate a milestone birthday. Never mind which one.
I plan to self-publish a short book or two on my own.
I want to give with my whole heart in everything I do. Life’s too short to hold back.
I want to do my part to help this earth by recycling, keeping my corner clean, and stamping out litter.
I want to do what I can to help the homeless people and pets.
I want to be a better, kinder, more sympathetic person.
I want to listen with my heart instead of my ears.
I want to make my family proud every day.
There you have it. Ten thoughts for 2018—God willing and the creek don’t rise. I’m sure you have your own set of thoughts. I wish you peace, love, and harmony now and forever.
I’m giving away a Linda Broday 2018 small wall calendar. To enter the drawing, tell me about your weather or what Santa brought you or what book you’re reading. I’ll draw late Saturday.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day was one I looked forward to with great anticipation each year during my childhood.
It wasn’t just the break from school that made the week fun (although I so enjoyed the freedom of not being at school or being plagued with mountains of homework).
If there was more than an inch of snow on the ground (which was typically the case on our Eastern Oregon farm), it meant unlimited outdoor entertainment. We went sledding off the hill right outside our back door, skating on the pond, snowmobiling across the sagebrush on the other side of the canal, and we even built snow forts a time or two.
Because my parents had a big house with ample room for parking, we almost always hosted Christmas for our extended family. My mom’s family and dad’s family took turns coming.
One year in particular I remember well because Mom’s family had all come for Christmas. We barely had a dusting of snow on the ground, so we spent most of the day inside with nothing to do but play with new toys, eat yummy food, and wish it would snow.
But then, in that magical week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, it snowed, and snowed. And then snowed some more. In an impromptu effort to wring every bit of fun we could from the holiday season, Daddy invited his family to come over for New Year’s Day.
Snowy fun, circa 1970-something. That’s my John Deere snowsuit in the back left side of the photo with the hood securely tied almost up to the nose.
Mom made a huge pot of chili and enough cinnamon rolls to feed a small army. My aunts provided salads and sides along with oodles of desserts. Family began arriving late morning and we spent the rest of the day sledding, skating, and having a wonderful time. The cold and darkness didn’t even put an end to our fun. After warming up with chili and hot chocolate, some of my hardier cousins trouped back outside to sled in the dark.
I’ll never forget that special New Year’s Day or how much fun we had.
Do you have any special New Year’s Day memories from your childhood
(or maybe from a holiday with your children?)
One lucky commenter will receive their choice of a digital copy of any one of my books.
Wishing you all a safe, peaceful, joyous New Year’s Day and a fabulous 2018!
You’re invited to an old fashioned Quilting Bee. Look at my quilt below and tell me how you would decorate a patch to add. It can be a picture, a resolution, a wish for the New Year or anything you want it to be. One lucky “quilter” can choose either a copy of Petticoat Detective or Undercover Bride. (Sweepstakesrules apply.)
I’m giving you each a blank patch to add to my quilt.
What would your patch say or what would it look like?
Someone is killing off the Harvey Girls and undercover Pinkerton detective Katie Madison hopes to find the killer before the killer finds her—or before she burns down the restaurant trying.
To order my brand new release, Calico Spy, click here!
I pray that you and your family had a wonderful Christmas holiday. Perhaps you are still enjoying time off. At the Witemeyer house, we spend lots of time in our pajamas playing board games, watching movies, and piecing together the puzzle that sits on the card table often through New Year’s Day before it is finished.
As we look forward to 2016, I am anticipating many exciting things. My daughter (the oldest of our kids) will be graduating from high school and starting college. Wow. We are all still a bit numb from that thought. My middle child will be turning 16 and getting his driver’s license. My youngest will be starting high school. (Not so young anymore.) My in-laws will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. What a fantastic accomplishment that is! And in the midst of all that, I will have the chance to travel to Germany with another author and participate in a book tour. My German publisher has invited me for a visit, and I can’t wait to see a portion of that wonderful country!
What are you looking forward to in 2016?
One thing you can look forward to right now, is a great discount on my most popular novel, Short-Straw Bride. Today through January 1, you can download the e-version for only $1.99. Yeehaw! And if you already have a copy, you can send one to a friend for less than you would pay to send a Hallmark card. What a fun way to start the New Year! Click on the cover to get the deal.
Did everyone have a merry Christmas? Good, because a new year is on the horizon. No red-blooded southerner can let New Year’s Day pass without complaining about honoring one of the most reviled respected traditions of the day.
So let’s get it over with.
No one in the American South escapes childhood without becoming painfully aware black-eyed peas are a mandatory part of the New Year’s Day meal. I say “painfully” because I would rather eat dirt than the black-eyed peas grown in it — and I’m not alone in that sentiment. Nevertheless, no matter what else is on the New Year’s Day menu, the cook had better sneak black-eyed peas into the mix somewhere or the whole year will head straight for hell on the handbasket express.
Notice the pure evil in those little black eyes.
Native to Africa, black-eyed peas reportedly migrated to Virginia in the late seventeenth century. Not until after the American Revolution did anyone take them seriously, but that didn’t stop the little connivers from worming their way southward and westward with settlers. The scoundrels proved incredibly hardy, darn them, and soon were well entrenched in fields hither and yon, biding their time until the moment was right to spring onto some unsuspecting family’s table.
According to legend, that moment occurred in early 1864 as General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Union troops ran roughshod over every square inch of ground from Atlanta to the sea. As if the situation weren’t dire enough for the Confederacy, the Yankees “confiscated” (read “stole”) every edible scrap they could get their hands on, leaving behind only things they considered livestock feed: black-eyed peas, greens, and corn. For Lord only knows what reason, they also left the salt pork, although they made off with every other kind of meat they could scavenge.
Little did Sherman and his men know that by abandoning the black-eyed peas, they abandoned an excellent source of calcium, folate, protein, fiber, and vitamin A, among other nutrients. (That is the only nice thing I will ever say about the vile vegetable.)
Here — look at the pretty picture of cornbread. It’ll settle your stomach.
Thankful the Yankees left anything in their wake, white southerners learned to consume food slaves and po’ folks had eaten for generations: black-eyed peas, greens, salt pork, and cornbread. Those staples helped southerners survive the winter. When New Year’s Day 1865 rolled around, they were delighted to find themselves still alive. The same could not be said for their palates, if the black-eyed pea custom is any indication.
Thus, a tradition was born, dang it.
According to southern lore, black-eyed peas, greens, pork, and cornbread each symbolize a hope for the future (or a reminder of the “just shut up and eat it” principle):
Black-eyed peas are for prosperity, because they swell when cooked. Some also say the peas represent coins. Folks who want to get technical about their prosperity eat one pea for each day of the coming year, although for the life of me I can’t figure out who has the patience to count out 365 black-eyed peas per serving.
Greens (collard, turnip, or mustard) bring money, because they’re the color of dollar bills. In addition to eating cooked greens, some folks hang uncooked stalks from the ceiling in order to attract prosperity. To my way of thinking, that habit just means one more thing to dust.
Pork symbolizes forward progress, because pigs root forward when they forage.
Cornbread symbolizes gold. It also does an excellent job of soaking up pot likker — the liquid left after greens are cooked — which is considered a delicacy and an aphrodisiac. In addition, if you crumble enough cornbread into a serving of black-eyed peas, you’ll never know the peas are there.
There’s a trick an art to preparing inedible irresistible black-eyed peas: Disguise their flavor and texture with a whole mess of other ingredients. If you feel compelled to adopt or continue a tradition passed down to today’s southerners by ancestors with a sadistic streak, my recipe is below. (A word to the wise: I cook by taste, not necessarily by recipe. The one dish I don’t taste while it cooks? Black-eyed peas. I prefer to conserve my appetite for dinner, in the fervent hope the disgusting delicious peas will have been devoured — or mysteriously disappeared — by the time I get to the table.)
A Pot of Good Stuff with a Couple of Black-eyed Peas Thrown in So I’m Not Singlehandedly Responsible for the End of Civilization as We Know it
4 or 5 slices of bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups fresh or frozen black-eyed peas
3 lbs. smoked ham hock, a large, meaty ham bone, or an enormous slab of ham (The more meat, the less chance a black-eyed pea will creep into your portion, so go…ahem…hog wild.)
½ tsp. kosher or sea salt (or to taste)
Ground black pepper to taste
¼ tsp. allspice
1 Tbsp. Tabasco or other hot-pepper sauce (use more or less, to taste — I use about half a bottle)
4 cups chicken stock
Additional chicken stock or water, as necessary
In a large stock pot, fry bacon until crisp. Remove and set aside.
Sauté onion, celery, and garlic in bacon drippings until tender.
Add remainder of ingredients, plus crumbled bacon, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 30 mins. to 1 hour, adding liquid as necessary to keep peas covered, until tender. (There’s a fine line between tender and mushy. For me, that line is before the peas are in the pot. You’ll have to determine the texture you prefer on your own.)
No one has to force me to eat collard or turnip greens on New Year’s Day. I’ve always enjoyed them. (Psst: The secret to great greens is vinegar, but you didn’t hear that from me.)
Always serve greens with black-eyed peas. Always, because this is where finesse comes into play: If you ladle greens on top of the black-eyed peas, you can eat your fill of greens and then push away from the table, pat your stomach, and announce “I can’t eat another bite!” before you’ve reached the detestable delectable peas hidden underneath.
Collard, Turnip, or Mustard Greens with Salt Pork
2 pounds (about two large bunches) fresh greens
4 or 5 slices of bacon
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
5 cups water
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 piece salt pork, sliced, or 2 meaty ham hocks (or both)
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and ground black pepper to taste
Thoroughly wash leaves and remove any woody stalks and center veins. (Small stems and veins are okay.) Tear leaves into large pieces or cut into strips.
In a large stock pot, fry bacon until crisp. Remove and set aside.
Sauté onion and garlic in bacon drippings until tender.
Add tomatoes and meat, plus the crumbled bacon. Pour in water and vinegar and bring to a simmer. Add greens, tamping them down so the water covers them.
Cover and simmer until tender — about 1½ to 3 hours, depending on type of greens. Turnip and collard greens require 1½ to 2 hours; mustard greens may take as long as three hours.
Do you celebrate New Year’s Day with any traditions? I’d love to hear about them. If nothing else, I’d find it comforting to know people in other parts of the world don’t start each new year dreading dinner.
Here’s to a fantastic 2016, y’all! May all of us enjoy health, happiness, and prosperity whether or not we eat black-eyed peas. 🙂