Category: Traditions

Horseshoes and Superstitions

WG Logo 2015-04

Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I hope everyone is having a wonderful March so far.

Did you ever wonder where the superstitions around horseshoes as a good luck charm came from? I did, so I thought I’d do a little digging.

horseshoe-1Many people believe that the concept of a lucky horseshoe originated from a myth about a man named Dunstan and his encounter with the Devil in the tenth century AD. Dunstan was a blacksmith and when he was asked to re-shoe the Devil’s horse, he nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s hoof instead. This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after the Devil promised never again to enter a place where a horseshoe is hung over the door. Thus, hanging a horseshoe over your door is said to ward off the Devil. As a side note here, Dunstan the blacksmith eventually became the Archbishop of Canterbury and was later canonized to become Saint Dunstan.horseshoe-3

There are two different schools of thought among the superstitious about how to hang a horseshoe to ensure you receive the coveted good luck. Some believe that the charm should be hung in the upward or “U-shaped” position so that all of the luck can’t fall out.  Others believe just the opposite, that if it is hung in the downward position, it allows the luck to rain down on you. So take your pick. Or maybe hedge your bets and do both! 🙂

 

Did you know that, originally, horseshoes were affixed to the animal’s hoof with seven iron nails? That’s because seven was considered to be an extremely lucky number. And that’s why many of the horseshoe good-luck tokens today are made with seven “nail hole” impressions.

 

Of course, I’m not superstitious by nature and don’t set much store by good luck charms.  However, I do have a few tokens I carry with me, but these are sentimental in nature rather than based on the belief that they will bring me luck.

 

What about you? Do you have a good luck charm, a token of some sort, that you like to carry around?  Care to share?

Updated: March 7, 2016 — 10:01 pm

Welcome a New Guest to the Junction – Pamela Howell!

HowellChilly, winter nights, a blanket of stars and a crackling campfire conjure up stories of the American West and its quintessential icon — the cowboy — better for me than almost any setting I know. Throw in some great camp cooking over an open flame and it’s possible to almost smell the smoke from the fire as it tinges the night air with a distinctive smell of mesquite or coals. Ah, nothing quite like it.

Growing up in the wide, open spaces of West Texas, I’ve stood around my share of campfires with bubbling pots of venison chili or homemade peach cobbler, but I’ve never been the pot stirrer, always just the pot partaker, so I thought it was interesting to learn that there is an organization devoted to the art of black pot, or Dutch oven, cooking.chuck wagon

The Lone Star Dutch Oven Society (LSDOS) has chapters throughout Texas who work to preserve the historical aspects of black pot cooking, a way of preparing food that dates back several hundred years. LSDOS members provide classes for greenhorns like me who want to learn how to cook in a Dutch oven. Members also participate in historical re-enactment events, recreational expositions and education activities in their communities.

To whet your appetite for cooking the black pot way, the LSDOS offers many recipes on its website at www.lsdos.com. Here’s a tasty sample:

Spicy Black-eyed Pea Soup
Mary & Gale Merriwether
SALTGRASS  CHAPTER of the Lone Star Dutch Oven Society

12 inch well-seasoned Dutch Oven                Serves 6 to 8

INGREDIENTS

4        cups Black-eyed peas (dried)

1        cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

4        tablespoons bacon drippings

2        can of Ro-Tel tomatoes (10 oz.)

2        cup beef broth

Salt and pepper, to taste

1        large onion, chopped

Tortilla chips


DIRECTIONS

  1. Rinse and cook black-eyed peas according to package directions.  When tender, drain off most of the water and retain in case you need more liquid for soup broth.
  2. Sauté onion in bacon drippings until soft.  Mash the peas with potato masher and add to onions in the pan.
  3. Add the tomatoes, beef broth and cheese.  Simmer until the cheese has melted.  Salted and pepper to taste.
  4. If needed, add retained water from cooking black-eyed peas to make soup the desired consistency.
  5. Serve hot and garnish with tortilla chips.

Note:  You may substitute 2 small, peeled fresh tomatoes and a minced jalapeno pepper (seeds, stems and ribs removed) for the Ro-Tel tomatoes, if desired.

 

Until next time, here are a few photos of West Texas which were taken by my husband on a recent day trip around Ft. Stockton. These photos really speak to my heart as a writer and I hope you enjoy them, too.

 

FtStocktonBOQ DSC_0313

 

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**Giveaway Alert: Pamela will give away one free, autographed, paperback version of her novel A RIDE HOME. One reader’s name will be drawn at random. You can connect with her at www.pamelarobertshowell.com or on her Facebook fan page Pamela Roberts Howell.ARideHome_BookCover

Pamela Howell is an author, teacher, and freelance journalist. She has won numerous state, national and international awards for her writing as well as her marketing leadership skills. A native Texan, she lives in San Antonio with her husband of 26 years where she enjoys writing Christian fiction, scrapbooking, reading and crafting.

 

Her novel, A RIDE HOME, is set in West Texas and tells the story of college student Kayla Hartley who accepts a ride from a stranger, a handsome cowboy named Mark Lawson, who charms his way into her heart. But, is it the best decision? It’s 800 miles across an unforgiving, barren landscape from San Angelo, Texas, to her hometown in Arizona, and as night falls and the road becomes more desolate, Kayla begins to wonder if she’s made a mistake, a terrible one that might cost her dearly.

A RIDE HOME Book Trailer —

 

This is Pamela’s first blog on Petticoats & Pistols. We’re happy you joined us, Pamela!

 

 

Updated: January 26, 2016 — 6:31 pm

A Quilt for the New Year & Book Giveaway

MargaretBrownley-headerYou’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(Sweepstakes rules apply.)

patchwork-quilts

I’m giving you each a blank patch to add to my quilt. 

What would your patch say or what would it look like?

 

HeaderBanner_CalicoSpy

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!

Amazon

B&N

iTunes

 

Updated: January 2, 2016 — 10:44 am

Black-eyed Peas: Harbingers of Doom (plus recipes)

Kathleen Rice Adams header

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.

black-eyed peas

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.)

cornbread

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

Black-eyedPeas4 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.)

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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

CollardGreens2 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.  🙂

Bread Pudding: From Frugal to Fancy (and a recipe)

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Many dishes that are prides of the American table today once were ways to avoid wasting food. Shipping of all but basic staples didn’t begin until the latter half of the 19th century; perishables weren’t shipped at all until refrigerated containers, or “reefers,” were invented in 1869. Even then, perishable cargo could be carried only a few miles before the ice melted.

The first successful long-distance reefer transport occurred in the early 1880s. The first grocery store, Piggly Wiggly, opened in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1916.

Happy Cowboy ChristmasConsequently, settlers on the American frontier and American Indians used every part of the animals and plants they grew or gathered in order to avoid starvation. Frontier and farming families stewed poultry necks, tails, and wings because the meat and bones offered precious protein. Slaves in the American south prepared animal innards like chitterlings (intestines) and vegetable leavings like potato skins in a variety of ways because their masters considered those things offal. Anyone who has visited a restaurant in the past twenty years recognizes chicken wings and potato skins as trendy appetizers. At “soul food” eateries, chitlins are standard fare. (Yes, I have eaten them. No, I won’t do so again.)

Because carbohydrates offer a quick source of energy, bread, too, was a precious commodity. Many frontier families baked with cornmeal or corn flour. The latter was obtained by repeatedly pouring cornmeal from burlap sack to burlap sack and shaking loose the fine powder left clinging to the bags. Bread made with wheat flour was a treat…even though merchants in frontier towns often “extended” wheat flour by adding plaster dust. Frontier families might make a multi-day journey into town for supplies once or twice a year.

savory bread pudding

savory bread pudding

Since the early 11th century, “po’ folks” have turned stale bread into bread pudding in order to use every last ounce of food they could scrounge. Originally, the concoction was a savory main dish containing bread, water, and suet. Scraps of meat and vegetables might be added if the cook had those on hand.

What we think of as bread pudding today came into its own in New Orleans in the early 1800s. Creative cooks turned the dish into a dessert by combining stale bread with eggs, milk, spices, and a sweetener like molasses, honey, or sugar. Some also included bits of fruit, berries, and/or nuts.

My family and friends talk me into baking bread pudding each Christmas, and sometimes for other special occasions during the rest of the year. They don’t have to do much arm-twisting, because the rich dessert is easy to make, relatively inexpensive, and delicious.

bread pudding dessert

bread pudding dessert

One thing to know about bread pudding: Making it “wrong” is darn nigh impossible. Any kind of bread can be used, including sweet breads like donuts and croissants. Likewise, spices are left to the cook’s imagination, fruits and nuts are optional, and sauces are a matter of “pour something over the top.”

Through years of trial and error, I’ve created a recipe that works for me. Have fun experimenting with the basics (bread, milk, butter, and eggs) until you come up with one that works for you. I prefer mine fairly plain, but you may want to add or top with raisins (a New Orleans classic), chocolate, bananas, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, rum sauce, caramel sauce, powdered-sugar drizzle, or almost anything else you can imagine.

Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
(can be doubled for a crowd)

Pudding
(makes 10-12 servings)

3 large eggs
1½ cups heavy (whipping) cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
¼ cup bourbon
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
3 cups milk
1 16oz. loaf stale French bread, cut or torn into 1-inch cubes

Heat oven to 325.

Stir together eggs, cream, granulated and brown sugars, bourbon, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla in a large bowl.

Place bread cubes into a lightly buttered 13×9-inch pan.

Heat milk and butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until butter is melted. Do not boil.

Stir ¼ cup of hot milk mixture into egg mixture. When well-combined, slowly add remaining milk mixture, stirring constantly.

Pour egg mixture evenly over bread. For a fluffier pudding, lightly press bread into egg mixture so all bread cubes are coated with the liquid. For a dense pudding, allow the pan to sit for 20 mins. before baking.

Bake for 45-55 mins., until top is browned and no liquid is visible around the edges. (The center will look soft. Don’t bother with the toothpick test—it won’t tell you anything.)

Allow pudding to stand for 20-30 mins. Top with bourbon sauce and serve.

Bourbon Sauce
(This will knock folks across the room, so be careful how much you pour on each pudding serving. 2 tsp. vanilla or other extract may be substituted for bourbon, if desired.)

1 cup heavy cream
½ Tbsp. corn starch
1 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. sugar
¼ cup bourbon

In small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to a boil.

Whisk together corn starch and water, then add the mixture to the cream, whisking constantly.

Bring the mixture to a boil.

Whisk and simmer until thickened, taking care not to scorch the cream on the bottom.

Stir in sugar and bourbon. Taste. Add more sugar and/or bourbon to taste.

Ladle sauce over each serving of warm-from-the-oven or room-temperature pudding.

Serve and enjoy!

 

PRPA MAIL ORDER CHRISTMAS BRIDE WEB.JPG FINALBread pudding wouldn’t be on the menu in the dingy cafe on the wrong side of Fort Worth where the heroine in my latest story works. The job is a big step down from her previous life as a pampered socialite. “A Long Way from St. Louis” appears with stories from seven other authors—including filly sisters Cheryl Pierson and Tanya Hanson—in Prairie Rose Publications’ new holiday anthology, A Mail-Order Christmas Bride.

A Long Way from St. Louis
Cast out by St. Louis society after her husband leaves her for another, Elizabeth Adair goes west to marry a wealthy Texas rancher. Burning with anger when she discovers the deceit of a groom who is neither wealthy nor Texan, she refuses to wed and ends up on the backstreets of Fort Worth.

Ten years after Elizabeth’s father ran him out of St. Louis, Brendan Sheppard’s memory still sizzles with the rich man’s contempt. Riffraff. Alley trash. Son of an Irish drunkard. Yet, desire for a beautiful, unattainable girl continues to blaze in his heart.

When the debutante and the back-alley brawler collide a long way from St. Louis, they’ll either douse an old flame…or forge a new love.

Here’s an excerpt:

If the lazy beast lounging on a bench beside the depot’s doors were any indication, the west was neither wooly nor wild. As a porter took her hand to assist her from the railway car, Elizabeth Adair stared. The cowboy’s worn boots crossed at the ends of denim-clad legs slung way out in front of him. Chin resting on his chest, hat covering his face, the man presented the perfect picture of indolence.

Surely her husband-to-be employed a more industrious type of Texan.

Her gaze fixed on the cowboy’s peculiar hat. A broad brim surrounded a crown with a dent carved down the center. Sweat stains decorated the buff-colored felt. Splotches of drying mud decorated the rest of him.

Lazy and slovenly.

Pellets of ice sprinkled from the gray sky, melting the instant they touched her traveling cloak. Already she shivered. Another few minutes in this horrid weather, and the garment would be soaked through.

The porter raised his voice over the din of the bustling crowd. “Miss, let’s get you inside before you take a chill. I’ll bring your trunks right away.”

Taking her by the elbow, he hastened toward doors fitted with dozens of glass panes. Ragtag children darted among the passengers hurrying for shelter. Without overcoats, the urchins must be freezing.

She glanced around the platform. Where was her groom? She had assumed a wealthy rancher would meet his fiancée upon her arrival. Perhaps he waited within the depot’s presumed warmth. Her hope for a smattering of sophistication dwindled, but a woman in her circumstances could ill afford to be picky.

A group of ragamuffins gathered around the cowboy. As the porter hustled her past, the Texan reached into his sheepskin jacket and withdrew a handful of peppermint sticks. A whiff of the candy’s scent evoked the memory of a young man she once knew—a ne’er-do-well removed from St. Louis at her father’s insistence, and none too soon.

After depositing her beside a potbellied stove, the porter disappeared into the multitude. The tang of wood smoke drifted around her, so much more pleasant than the oily stench of coal. Peering through the throng, she slipped her hands from her muff and allowed the hand-warmer to settle against her waist on its long chain. She’d best reserve the accessory for special occasions. Judging by the people milling about the room, she doubted she’d find Persian lamb in Fort Worth unless she stooped to ordering from a mail-order catalog.

Mail-order. At least the marriage contract removed her from the whispered speculation, the piteous glances.

The shame heaped upon her by the parents she’d tried so hard to please.

Elizabeth put her back to the frigid gusts that swept in every time the doors opened, extending gloved palms toward the warmth cast by the stove.

Heavy steps tromped up behind her. Peppermint tickled her nose.

“Bets?”

A gasp leapt down her throat, colliding with her heart’s upward surge. Her palm flew to the base of her collar. Bets? Deep and smooth, the voice triggered a ten-year-old memory: If ye were aulder, little girl, I’d teach ye more than how to kiss.

She whirled to find the lazy cowboy, his stained hat dangling from one hand. Her gaze rose to a face weathered by the elements, but the blue eyes, the crooked nose…

Brendan Sheppard.

What’s your favorite holiday dessert? I’ll give an ebook copy of A Mail-Order Christmas Bride to one of today’s commenters who answers that question. (All Petticoats and Pistols sweepstakes rules apply to this giveaway.)

A Thanksgiving Recipe and Book Giveaway!!!

Photo Credit: StGrundy via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: StGrundy via Compfight cc

I know we’re all busy with holiday preparations, so I’m going to keep today’s post short and sweet. And the sweet is quite literal. In honor of the best eating holiday around, I thought I’d share my mother’s recipe for my favorite Thanksgiving dish – Candied Yams. Mmmmmm. They are so good. I never quite get mine to taste as good as hers, but they’re close enough to thoroughly enjoy.

Candied Yams

Wrap 5 large Red Garnet Yams in foil (poke a few vent holes with a short knife in each) and bake in a 400 degree oven until soft (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours). Let cool.

(Red Garnet Yams are much better than sweet potatoes, but if you can’t find them, sweet potatoes will work, too.)

candied yams

Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of my mom’s yams, but this one came the closest. They won’t be syrupy, though. Just buttery and candied around the edges.

Unwrap yams, remove skin, and slice lengthwise into thin, oblong strips about 1/4 inch thick. Lay flat in a shallow baking dish (jelly roll pans work great), fitting them close together so almost no pan is visible. You will probably need at least 2 pans. Sprinkle generously with brown sugar. Drizzle (or spoon) melted butter over the yams until all the sugar is moistened. Bake in a 400 degree oven again until yams get dark (sticky and candied) around edges (usually 45-60 minutes).

Use a metal spatula to remove yams. Serve in a shallow dish.

Old-fashioned. Simple. And delicious!

Click Cover to Order

Click Cover to Order

The other sweet I’m offering today is a free book. WooHoo!!! Who doesn’t love a great Christmas story to curl up with around the holidays?

I had the honor of meeting author Jolene Navarro at a library event in the small Texas town of Llano. I snatched up a copy of her latest release, A Texas Christmas Wish, knowing all of my Petticoats & Pistols friends would love the chance to win a signed copy.

So, to enter for a chance to win, simply leave a comment about your favorite Thanksgiving dish.

Have a blessed day tomorrow with family and friends. May your hearts be filled with gratitude and your bellies be filled with delicious food.

 

 

Traditions & Mail Order Brides

 

When people talk about opposites attracting—I am living proof.

Kathryn's Wedding Day

Me and my DH Married on my grandparent’s farm

Although I wasn’t a mail-order bride ~
I was a big city girl from the Pacific coast marrying a small-town boy from the Midwest. I locked every door and checked them twice. He never locked a thing. I would do anything to avoid long lines and crowds, but he used them as a chance to be friendly with the people standing in line with him.

One of the real eye-openers about his different set of traditions was our first Thanksgiving as newlyweds. We traveled “Over the river and through the woods…” to spend the holiday with his family. May I just say that that entire Thanksgiving Day simply felt “wrong.”

His family didn’t watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. His family didn’t start a Christmas puzzle. And they didn’t sit down at a beautifully set table together while “father” carved the turkey, the children got to sneak a sip of wine, and conversation flowed as the meal and my mother’s cooking was appreciated. (I’m beginning to sound like a Hallmark card, but it was really a great up-bringing.)

Instead his family filled their plates full buffet-style and then sat down in the family room and watched the Thanksgiving football game while they ate. Talk was about the game. Then later that evening, after pumpkin pie, they played cards.

The food was the same—traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, and pie. Really, the differences were minor, but for my first holiday away from home, they seemed huge—and of course I was homesick.Sarah Plain and Tall

It made me think that holidays must have been hard for those mail-order brides back in the old west. Even if the new ways were better than what they’d left, they’d still be uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. One of my favorite mail-order bride stories is the Newbery Medal winner ~ Sarah, Plain and Tall  by Patricia MacLachlan.

Traditions – rituals that are done intentionally on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annually schedule–have the ability to strengthen family ties, provide comfort and security and a sense of identity. Traditions are a constant in a world that is continually changing, and a world that is going too fast. Like the comfort of knowing the leaves change color in autumn and snow flies in winter, traditions gird and strengthen roots in a family.

When my own children came along, my family traditions and those of my husband’s melded and became one.  It has been a pleasure to realize that along the way we created a few family traditions that “stuck.”

  1. Family game night
  2. Christmas Eve Candlelight Service
  3. Christmas puzzle
  4. Birthday measuring against the doorpost
  5. A special holiday table setting and meal and conversation—and THEN football.

I’ve never written a mail-order bride story, but I can see how the situation would ripen the plot for misunderstandings and emotions. Even today, I have several friends who have met their spouses over the internet. They are the mail-order brides of today and I can only imagine some of their first holidays together bumping heads regarding traditions.

As this holiday season approaches I am thankful for many things. One of them is you–my readers. It is my hope that you have a few traditions that enrich your life and bring you happy memories. If you don’t—please consider starting one.

The Gunslinger and the HeiressI would love to hear of any family traditions you’d like to share…

Comment for a chance to win my book,
The Gunslinger and the Heiress
packaged with Bronwyn Scott’s ~ Playing the Rakes Game.

(Neither one of which are Mail Order Bride Stories!)

Petticoats and Pistols Sweepstake rules apply.

All Hail Texas Pecans! (and a recipe)

Kathleen Rice Adams headerIn Texas, pecans are a Big Deal. The trees are native to the state, and according the archaeological record, they’ve been here since long before humans arrived. When people did arrive, they glommed onto the nuts right away as an excellent source of essential vitamins (19 of them, in fact), fats, and proteins. Comanches and other American Indians considered the nuts a dietary staple, combining pecans with fruits and other nuts to make a sort of “trail mix.” They also used pecan milk to make an energy drink and thickened stews and soups with the ground meat. Most Indians carried stores of the nuts with them when they traveled long distances, because pecans would sustain them when no other food sources were available.

Pecans

Texas pecans

An individual Texas pecan tree may live for more than 1,000 years. Some grow to more than 100 feet tall.

Pecans have been an important agricultural product in Texas since the mid-1800s. In 1850, 1,525 bushels left the Port of Galveston; just four years later, the number of bushels exceeded 13,000. In 1866, the ports at Galveston, Indianola, and Port Lavaca combined shipped more than 20,000 barrels of pecans.

Nevertheless, as the state’s population exploded, pecan groves dwindled. Trees were cut to clear fields for cotton. Pecan wood was used to make wagon parts and farm implements. One of Texas’s great natural resources was depleted so quickly that in 1904, the legislature considered passing laws to prevent the complete disappearance of the pecan.

Left alone to regenerate for a couple of decades, Texas pecan groves came back bigger than ever. Until 1945, Texas trees produced more 30 percent of the U.S. pecan crop. In 1910, pecan production in the state reached nearly 6 million pounds, and the trees grew in all but eight counties. During the 1920s, Texas exported 500 railcar loads per year, and that was only 75 percent of the state’s crop. The average annual production between 1936 and 1946 was just shy of 27 million pounds; in 1948, a banner year for pecan production, the crop zoomed to 43 million pounds produced by 3,212,633 trees. In 1972, the harvest reached a whopping 75 million pounds.

Texas pecan orchard

Texas pecan orchard

During the Great Depression, the pecan industry provided jobs for many Texans. The nuts had to be harvested and shelled. Shelling employed 12,000 to 15,000 people in San Antonio alone.

The Texas legislature designated the pecan the official state tree in 1919. Between then and now, pecan nuts became Texas’s official state health food (Texas has an official health food?), and pecan pie became the state’s official pie (and my official favorite pie). Pecan wood is used to make baseball bats, hammer handles, furniture, wall paneling, flooring, carvings, and firewood.

Yep. Pecans have always been, and continue to be, a Big Deal in Texas—especially during the holidays. I’d be surprised if any native Texans don’t bake at least one pecan pie for either Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner or both.

Texas pecan pie. Do you see how dark and luscious that is? Milk-custard, my hind leg.

Texas pecan pie. Do you see how dark and luscious that is? Milk-custard, my hind leg.

The first known appearance of a pecan pie recipe in print can be found on page 95 in the February 6, 1886, issue of Harper’s Bazaar. I’ll bet Texans were baking the pies long before that, though—and I’ll bet even back then Texas pecan pies weren’t the wimpy little milk-custard-based, meringue-covered things Harper’s recommended. In Texas, we make our pecan pies with brown sugar, molasses or corn syrup, butter, eggs, a whole bunch of pecans, and sometimes bourbon.

Another thing Texans have been making with pecans for a long, long time is cinnamon-pecan cake—another treat lots of folks enjoy around the holidays. My family doesn’t put bourbon in this dessert. Instead, we pour a delicious whiskey sauce over each slice. (It occurs to me that for a passel of Baptists, my family sure cooks with a lot of liquor. See the old family recipe for muscadine wine here.)

On to the cake recipe!

 

PecanCakeCinnamon Pecan Cake

1 cup butter, softened
2 ½ cups sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 cup chopped pecans
Additional chopped pecans or pecan halves for topping, if desired

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans.

In large bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.

In another large bowl, beat butter and sugar at medium speed 3 to 4 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beating at low speed, add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

At low speed, alternately add milk and flour mixture into sugar mixture, beating just until blended. Fold in pecans. Spread in pans. Sprinkle chopped pecans or arrange pecan halves on top, if desired.

Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove to wire rack and cool completely.

 

VanillaWhiskeySauceWhiskey Sauce

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
½ Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. sugar
¼ cup bourbon

In small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to a boil.

Whisk cornstarch and water together and add to cream while whisking constantly.

Bring to a boil, whisk and simmer until thickened (taking care not to scorch the mixture on the bottom). Remove from heat.

Stir in sugar and bourbon. Taste. Add sugar and whiskey to adjust sweetness and flavor, if desired.

 

Folks in Fort Worth in the 1880s would’ve eaten this cake—or something very similar—during the holidays. That’s exactly when and where “A Long Way from St. Louis,” my contribution to Prairie Rose Publications’s Christmas anthology A Mail-Order Christmas Bride, takes place. The book—with stories by fellow fillies Cheryl Pierson and Tanya Hanson—bows November 27, but it’s available for pre-order now at Amazon.

PRPA MAIL ORDER CHRISTMAS BRIDE WEB.JPG FINALHere’s a little about “A Long Way from St. Louis”:

Cast out by St. Louis society when her husband leaves her for another, Elizabeth Adair goes west to marry a wealthy Texas rancher. Burning with anger over the deceit of a groom who is neither wealthy nor Texan, she refuses to wed and ends up on the backstreets of Fort Worth.

Ten years after Elizabeth’s father ran him out of St. Louis, Brendan Sheppard’s memory still sizzles with the rich man’s contempt. Riffraff. Alley trash. Son of an Irish drunkard. Yet, desire for a beautiful, unattainable girl continues to blaze in his heart.

When the debutante and the ne’er-do-well collide a long way from St. Louis, they’ll either douse an old flame…or forge a new love.

 

So, readers… What dish—dessert, main course, side, or appetizer—absolutely must be part of your holidays? I’ll give an ebook version of A Mail-Order Christmas Bride to one of today’s commenters who answers that question. (All Petticoats and Pistols sweepstakes rules apply to this giveaway.)

 

Guest Michael K. Reynolds: Romancing the West!

There is tremendous irony in how popular the Western genre of Historical Romance is with today’s readers.

After all, life in the Western United States in the late 19th century was hardly the stuff romantic dreams were made of.

Sweaty saddles, dusty bedrolls, boll weevils in the breakfast bowl, horse flies feasting on your neck and only the most rudimentary levels of sanitation. Not exactly Harry Met Sally.

painting- New York Harbor about 1855 Fitz Henry Lane,American American, 1804–1865And during the Gold Rush era, romance was barely mathematically possible as there was a severe shortage of ladies in the bustling, burgeoning Barbary Coast area. The fairer sex were even scarcer in the desolate hills of the Gold Country and the few women who did reside in the region were…uh um…mostly of the working variety.

So why is it that historical novelists such as myself and well informed readers…like you…cling so tightly to the notion there is romance in the air of those Western Skies?

For me, there always was something undeniably, absolutely captivating about the wide open spaces of the West. In fact, in writing In Golden Splendor, the second novel of my Heirs of Ireland series, I discovered the landscapes themselves became a central character in the book.

They became inseparably entwined in the courtship of the story. Here are some examples:

The Emptiness

Any good romance starts with our leading lady or man with a yearning in their heart, a sense of aloneness. The great expanses of the unexplored wilderness of the West naturally provoke emotions of deep yearning, always a key to a great romance.

Even at a distance, the ribs of the great beast showed through its patchy and scarred chestnut fur. Through the barrel’s eye, Seamus tracked the young bull as it limped its way over to an aspen tree. The elk raised its head, crowned in mockery by horns uneven and fractured.

Did it catch his scent?

Then the animal relaxed, bared its teeth, and tugged on a low-lying branch, releasing a powdery mist of fresh snowfall and uncovering autumnal leaves of maroon, amber and burnt orange. Brilliant watercolor splashes on a white canvas.

In the deadly stillness of a finger pointed on a trigger, Seamus shared a kinship of loneliness and futility with his prey, whose ear flapped and jaw bulged as it chewed.

The Grandeur

FlightOfTheEarlsWhat is romance without beauty, whether it is expressed through a perfectly sculpted face or experienced in the depths of a pure heart? When it comes to landscapes of the American West there are few areas on our planet that offer as seductive a setting for an epic journey of the soul.

Can you imagine being the first to capture sights of Yosemite? Long before there were roads and campgrounds?

There spinning beneath them, breathlessly and seemingly miles below, was a valley finely tailored in a stunning cloak of white and generously covered with snow-flocked forestry. It lay at the base of a symphony of granite that reached like grateful hands up to the heavens. Tears of adoration poured freely from great waterfalls that descended with fullness, despite the lateness of the season. Behind this all, the sun lowered its head beneath the distant edge of the crucible, pouring into the sky cottony plumes of pink, rose, and rusted orange.

The Struggle

Just as the thorn to the rose, the territory of the West can prove to be the perfect villain in the story, an antagonist who challenges our heroes to the core of their being:

Now also coming into clarity was the gruesome evidence of the trail’s savagery. Lining either side of the pathway were the tragic debris of failed crossings. Sun-blanched rib cages and scattered bones of oxen, horses, mules, as well as broken wagon frames and wheels with missing spokes. Even more haunting were the discarded dolls and toys and even cribs, a reminder of how death dealt no better hands to the young.

The Ephemeral Moods

This scenery of the West as well can prove to be a treasured palette for authors, allowing us to shift emotion and moods of a story.

The harbor fog drifted in as they weaved between the ghost ships, amidst the lofting smells of dead fish, rotting wood, and mildew. The waves splashing against the hulls and moans of bending timber and strained ropes added to the eeriness of the evening. The farther they were from the shoreline, the more desolate and forbidden became this naval graveyard.

Characters of Strength

SongsOfTheShenandoahBut the rich scenery is far from the only tool of the Western-themed novelist. Also in romancing the West a writer can tap into the deep complexity and intrigue of those who would respond to such a Manifest Destiny in their lives.

What great romance awaits such complex characters!

Which is why in the blending of all of this mostly male humanity, the woman who approached appeared so extraordinary and so out of place. She was dark enough in skin color to be Mexican, but her facial features were European, with high cheeks and taut skin. Her hair flowed freely, brown and straight and nearly all the way to her glistening silver belt buckle. She glanced at Seamus with playful and alluring eyes.

Yet rather than being dressed in the bright, ornamental dresses off the painted ladies in town, she was dressed more as a man, with leather leggings, a red plaid shirt, spurred boots, and a black flat-brimmed hat. Most notably, she swayed with confidence and strength.

The Pen is Yours

What about you? What do you think makes the American West such a perfect accompaniment for romance?

One of the commenters who answers Michael’s question will win an autographed copy of his or her choice from the Heirs of Ireland series: Flight of the Earls, In Golden Splendor, or Songs of the Shenandoah. Click on the book covers above to find out more about each book. The winner will be announced Sunday evening (Aug. 23).

 

MichaelKReynolds_GoldABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael K. Reynolds’s debut novel, Flight of the Earls, about the Great Irish Potato Famine was a finalist for RT Book Reviews 2013 novel of the year award in the category of Inspirational Romance. In Golden Splendor, set during the San Francisco Gold Rush, earned fourth place as Forewords Best Historical Novel of 2013 and Songs of the Shenandoah, the Civil War-era conclusion to the trilogy was a Top Pick in RT Book Reviews, as well as a finalist for RT’s Book Reviews Book of the Year and was the Gold Award Winner as Forewords Best Historical Novel of 2014.

You can learn more about Michael at MichaelKReynolds.com. Find all of his books on his Amazon author page.

 

Love in the Time of Miscegenation

Kathleen Rice Adams header

She’s the sweetest rose of color this darky ever knew,
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew;
You may talk about your dearest May, and sing of Rosa Lee,
But the Yellow Rose of Texas beats the belles of Tennessee.

Those are the original words to the chorus of “The Yellow Rose Texas,” a folksong dating to early colonial Texas. The first known transcribed version—handwritten on a piece of plain paper—appeared around the time of the Texian victory at San Jacinto in April 1836.

Marie Laveau 1774-1881 Marie Laveau by Franck Schneider

“New Orleans’ Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau (1774-1881) was a free Creole of mixed race.

In its original form, the song tells the story of a black man (“darky”) who has been separated from his sweetheart and longs to reunite with her. The lyrics indicate the sweetheart was a free mulatto woman—a person of mixed black and white heritage. In those days, “person of color” was considered a polite way to refer to black people who were not slaves. “Yellow” was a common term for people of mixed race.

During the Civil War, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” became a popular marching tune for troops all over the Confederacy; consequently, the lyrics changed. White Confederates were not eager to refer to themselves as darkies, so “darky” became “soldier.” In addition, “rose of color” became “little flower.”

Aside from the obvious racist reasons for the modifications, legal doctrine played into the picture as well. Until the U.S. Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional in 1967, all eleven formerly Confederate states plus Delaware, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia outlawed marriage and sexual relations between whites and blacks. In four of the former Confederate states—Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia—marriage or sexual relations between whites and any non-white was labeled a felony. Such laws were called anti-miscegenation laws, or simply miscegenation laws. In order to draw what attorneys term a “bright line” between legal and illegal behavior, many states codified the “single-drop rule,” which held that a person with a single drop of Negro blood was black, regardless the color of his or her skin.

Texas’s miscegenation law, enacted in 1837, prescribed among the most severe penalties nationwide: A white person convicted of marrying, attempting to marry, or having sex with a person of another ethnicity was subject to a prison sentence of two to five years. Well into the twentieth century, it was not uncommon for the non-white half of the illicit relationship to be severely beaten or killed by irate local citizens.

The first American miscegenation laws arose in the colonies in the 1600s. The laws breathed their last gasp in 2001, when Alabama finally removed the anti-miscegenation clause from its state constitution after a referendum barely passed with only sixty percent of the popular vote.

Texas’s miscegenation law plays a role in “The Big Uneasy,” one half of the duet of stories in my new release, The Dumont Brand. The father of the heroine’s intended “lives in sin” with a free Creole of color. Under a tradition known as plaçage, wealthy white men openly kept well-bred women of color as mistresses in the heroine’s hometown, New Orleans. Texans frowned on the practice nonetheless. The situation causes no end of heartache for the heroine.

The Dumont Brand releases Friday, along with 20 other books, as part of Prairie Rose PublicationsChristmas in July event. About half of the books are holiday tales (like The Last Three Miles), and the other half are stories set in other seasons (like The Dumont Brand). Each of them will warm readers’ hearts all year long. Prairie Rose will host an extra-special Facebook fandango to celebrate the mountain of releases July 28-29. You can RSVP here. Did I mention the Prairie Roses will be giving away free books, jewelry, and other fun prizes?

The Dumont Brand 2 Web

 

On the eve of the Civil War, family secrets threaten everything a ranching dynasty has built…until Amon Collier finds salvation in the wrong woman’s love. In the aftermath of battle, a woman destroyed by betrayal brings peace to his brother Ben’s wounded soul.

The Big Uneasy: To escape the unthinkable with a man about whom she knows too much, New Orleans belle Josephine LaPierre agrees to marry a Texan about whom she knows nothing. Falling in love with his brother was not part of her plan.

Making Peace: After four long years in hell, Confederate cavalry officer Bennett Collier just wants to go home—assuming home still exists. Widowed Jayhawker Maggie Fannin will hold onto her home at any cost…even if she must face down the imposing Rebel soldier who accuses her of squatting.

 

The-Last-3-Miles-Kathleen-2-Web_FinalThe Last Three Miles also will debut Friday as part of PRP’s Christmas in July:

When an accident leaves Hamilton Hollister convinced he’ll never be more than half a man, he abandons construction of a railway spur his lumber mill needs to survive. Believing no woman shackled by social convention can be complete, railroad heiress Katherine Brashear refuses to let the nearly finished track die.

The magic of Christmas in a small Texas town may help them bridge the distance…if they follow their hearts down The Last Three Miles.

You can read excerpts from both books and peruse a complete list of the titles that are part of PRP’s Christmas in July event here.

 

To do a little celebrating of my own, I’ll give an e-copy of The Dumont Brand to one of today’s commenters and an e-copy of The Last Three Miles to another.

Please note: Both are available only as ebooks.

 

Petticoats & Pistols © 2015