Tag: @ShannaHatfield

Cowboys and Christmas

When I was thinking about a title for today’s blog post, of course my brain went right to Cowboys and Christmas. But from there, it tripped along over a fun old Christmas song. Emmylou Harris’ version is my favorite and the one playing on the soundtrack in my head this morning.

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Truthfully, I’ve had Christmas on the brain for months and months (okay, maybe it’s been there since last Christmas!). But I have a good reason. Well, several good reasons, but I’m excited to share three of them with you today. 

The first reason I’m so excited for the holiday season is my newly released non-fiction book – A Cowboy Christmas.

 

The book features interviews with rodeo and ranch families who share their favorite holiday traditions. Readers will find holiday how-tos, gift ideas, decorating tips and recipes (more than 70 of them). Some of the recipes are my family favorites and others come from the ranch and rodeo families. I tested (and tasted!) them all. I also had fun taking all the photographs of the food and how-tos. It was a great learning experience and one I’m so happy I had the opportunity to explore. 

Several of the families mentioned in the book have had their lives touched by a special organization called the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. The JCCF steps in when a rodeo athlete sustains a catastrophic injury and is unable to work for an extended time. They’ve provided $8 million in funds to more than 1,100 athletes, giving the cowboys a hand up when they need it most. And every dollar donated goes directly into the fund without any administrative fees removed. 

Back in 2013, I was working on the first book in a new series and reached out to the Justin Sportsmedicine Team with some questions. They kindly helped me and that’s when I first learned about the JCCF. 

This is the sixth year I’ll donate ten percent of my book proceeds to the fund. 

Any Shanna Hatfield book purchased between now and Christmas counts and will help benefit a great cause. 

To find out more about the JCCF and my Read a Book, Help a Cowboy campaign, visit my website

 

Another reason I’m all excited about Christmas is the release of my first sweet romantic comedy written in first person.

Oh, my gracious! 

I had so much fun writing this story and I hope you’ll have fun reading it!

Between Christmas and Romance  is part of the sweet and wholesome Christmas Mountain series, set in the fictional town of Christmas Mountain, Montana. My story is book seven in the series.

Here’s a little about Between Christmas and Romance: 

There’s nothing like a little Christmas glow to light up a holiday romance. . .

When the bright lights and big city lost its luster, Carol Bennett returns to her Montana hometown disillusioned and ready to embrace a simple, quiet existence. After she takes over the Christmas Mountain bookstore, she is determined to forget the glitzy world that left her with broken dreams. The store provides the perfect place to hide from her past while indulging her secret joy of reading sappy romances.

Then she encounters a cowboy too handsome for his own good and too insightful for hers. Although she adores his grandmother, rancher Tim Burke is stubborn, bold, and opinionated. He refuses to let her hide when he sees her all too clearly and does his best to draw her out of her protective shell.

In spite of her determination to detest the man, the sparks sizzling between them could light up the town’s Christmas tree. Carol has to decide if she’ll choose being brave and latching onto happiness or staying safely tucked away in her store.

Will two such opposite people be able to find love somewhere between romance and Christmas?

You can find more details about the book on my website, including buy links.

 

Also in its sixth year, I’m thrilled to invite you all to join me for the annual Cowboys and Christmas party taking place on Facebook November 7! There will be guest authors, game, giveaways, and so much fun!  Hope to see you all there!

What about you?

What is one thing you are looking forward to about the holidays? 

Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of Between Christmas and Romance!

 

Potatoes from the farm to your freezer

I spent my growing up years in an area where row crops were every bit as prevalent as wheat and hay fields. 
One of the most popular row crops (next to onions) happens to be potatoes. Some of our neighbors grew acres and acres of them. One year, as a fundraising project for our senior class, we went and picked up all the “cull” potatoes from their field and sold them for something like a $1 per bag by going door to door in our small town. That was not the most fun any 17-year-old ever had.

I also just happened to grow up in the same valley where one famous potato company started and continues today, known as Ore-Ida.

If you’ve ever stood in the freezer section at your grocery store and looked at the selection of frozen tater tots, French fries, or hash browns, you’ve probably seen Ore-Ida potatoes with their trademark red bag and distinctive logo.

Ore-Ida is  currently produced and distributed by the H.J. Heinz Company, now part of Kraft Heinz. The primary production facility for Ore-Ida is located in the community of Ontario, Oregon, that sits right on the border between Oregon and Idaho. The company once employed more than 1,000 people, but today has around 600 employees. 

Back in the mid-1930s, entrepreneurs and brothers F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg began growing sweet corn in eastern Oregon. Their first company, Grigg Brothers, became one of the largest distributors of sweet corn in the United States. 

Then, in 1949, with financial backing from their brother-in-law Otis Williams, the brothers rented a frozen food plant located in Ontario, at the border with Idaho, and converted it into a potato-processing facility. The three men purchased the facility in the early 1950s. In 1952, Oregon Frozen Foods Company was founded. 

Initially, the company produced and sold frozen corn and French fries. In 1953, Tater Tots were invented and patented by Ore-Ida. The tots were made from seasoned slivers of potatoes left over from the French fry production. (Oddly enough, Tater Tots are the brand’s most popular product). 

The company went on to build a second plant in Burley, Idaho, where many of their potato fields were located. The company’s name became a syllabic abbreviation of the two states where they ran the companies and the original logo consisted of outlines of Oregon and Idaho with Ore-Ida superimposed in italicized letters. 

Ore-Ida was acquired by the H.J. Heinz Company in 1965. Ore-Ida’s headquarters were located in Boise, Idaho, until 1999 when a new frozen foods division was created at Heinz’s corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

So the next time you reach into the freeze for a bag of fries or tots, you’ll know a little history of the company of you bought the Ore-Ida brand. 

Of course, I have to share a recipe with you today. This one includes Tater Tots and is easy to whip together for a fast meal. 

Tater Tot Casserole

2 pounds of ground beef

1 package of Ore-Ida Tater Tots

1 cup shredded colby-jack cheese (or cheddar)

1 tsp. onion flakes (or grated fresh onion)

2 cans of cream of mushroom soup

1 teaspoon seasoning (like Mrs. Dash)

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place tater tots into a 9 x 13 casserole pan (I lightly spray mine with non-stick spray first) and set in the oven while you brown the ground beef. I add the onion flakes, seasoning and salt and pepper to the ground beef. When the hamburger is browned, mix it with the cream of mushroom soup and spoon over the top of the tater tots. Layer on cheese and cover with foil. Bake for about 20 minutes or until soup is hot and bubbly. Remove foil and bake for a few more minutes until cheese is a melted layer of luscious gooey-ness. Remove from oven and serve. I like to sprinkle the top of my casserole with a bit of chopped fresh parsley. Captain Cavedweller likes his straight up “without any of that weird green stuff on there.”
Enjoy!

What is your favorite fast or easy dinner recipe using potatoes?

 

Stop in later to see if your name has been added to the list of semi-finalists! 

Only those who comment have a chance to win!

The Dynamite Kid

 

The past several weeks, I’ve been working on a new book in my Baker City Brides series which is set in the 1890s in Baker City, Oregon. 

The town got its start from gold mines in the area back in the 1860s. The gold played out, or so people thought, then enjoyed another boom around 1890. 

The story, titled Dumplings and Dynamite, takes place for the most part at a mining camp. 

Photo Credit: Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

This is a photo of the E&E Mine out of Baker City. It appears much as I envision the mine where my story takes place. 

Photo Credit: Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

I’m fascinated with the mill buildings that sprung up against the hillsides at mines like this one – the Golden Gate Mine near what once was called Greenhorn City. 

It’s hard for me to envision what it was like working in a mine because I wouldn’t have lasted a day. Probably not even an hour. I don’t like dark, enclosed spaces. At all. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to get up day after day and spend hour after hour in the bowels of a mountain digging out some other man’s fortune. 

 

Photo Credit: Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

The image above shows mine workers from the Bonanza Mine (one of the most successful of its time) near Baker City.The men are wielding “single jacks,” four-pound hammers, and steel drills. For light, the miners had candles on a wire stuck in a crack in the wall.

In my story, the hero is working as a powder monkey (a new term I learned in my research), also known as the brave individuals who worked with the explosives at a mine. The powder monkeys, or powdermen, were in charge of rotating the explosives to ensure older explosives were used first, ordering explosives, transportation of explosives, and keeping up the area where the explosives were stored. And in my story, he also sets off the charges, although, in reality, this job was often left to the miners who were digging out the ore. 

It was while I was trying to dig up research on dynamite usage in the early 1890s that I happened across an interesting story. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s fun reading, anyway. The source is from Richard Dillon’s book Shanghaiing Days. New York: Coward, 1961. 

According to the story, a young man named George Banks had a job working on the portage railroad at Cascade Locks, Oregon. It was the mid-1890s and shanghaiing was a rampant sport at the docks in Portland. In fact, it was a known fact the port was one of the worst places in the world to be kidnapped around that time. 

One day, George (known as a confident, upright, rock-solid fellow) was in Portland picking up a load of freight and he missed his returning sailing on the riverboat. Stuck on the wharf with crates of merchandise for work, he didn’t want to have to wait for morning to leave. 

A few friendly fellows approached George and offered to help him out. They made a deal for George to pay them for transporting him and his crates, and the men soon returned with a boat. The men helped George load his crates and they cast off, heading the wrong direction. At first, George merely puzzled over what they were doing. Then one of the men explained to him he was a sailor now and they were taking him to their ship where he’d be stuck working for them as little more than a free laborer. 

George took exception to this plan. 

“You ain’t gonna shanghai me,” George informed his kidnappers, reaching into his pocket. “I’ll blow you to hell first.”

His hand came out full of blasting caps.

All those crates the men had loaded were full of dynamite and George had the nickname among his friends as the “Dynamite Kid.” 

Needless to say, the boat turned around and took George where he wanted to go. After he unloaded his cargo, he paid the men as he’d originally agreed to do, then went about his work. 

I think I would have liked to have met George. Talk about pluck and determination! 

Although I’m not quite ready to do a cover reveal of Dumplings and Dynamite, I will share a little excerpt with you today:

 

Seth gathered an armload of wood and carried it inside the cookshack where mouth-watering aromas filled the air.

Long tables and benches filled the room. Through a doorway, he could see a woman and the two younger boys he’d noticed earlier scurrying around the kitchen, scooping food into bowls and dishing it onto platters.

“Need some wood?” Seth asked as he walked through the doorway.

The woman glanced up at him in surprise, but quickly recovered. She waggled a gravy-coated spoon in the direction of the wood box then went back to scraping gravy into a large bowl.

“I’m Seth. Mr. Gilford just hired me,” he said after he dumped the wood he carried into the box by the stove. He stuffed his hands in his pockets to keep from snatching a golden flapjack off a platter one of the boys carried out to the table.

“I’m Mrs. Parrish, the cook,” she said, not meeting his gaze as she handed the gravy bowl to a boy then picked up two platters full of bacon.

“Allow me,” Seth said, taking the platters from her. The woman might have been twenty or fifty. From her stringy hair, rumpled dress, and bedraggled petticoat hanging an inch below her skirt hem, she looked rather unkempt, but she smelled clean and her eyes were bright.

In fact, they were an unusual shade somewhere between gray and green that made him think of the sagebrush that grew so prevalent to the south and east of Baker City. In spite of circles beneath her eyes and smudges of flour on her cheeks, her skin was smooth, without the wrinkles age brings, and dusted with a generous helping of freckles.

He glimpsed her hands. Although rough and red from hard work, they looked young, almost delicate.

Yet, the woman moved slightly humped over with the hint of a limp and when she smiled at him, he couldn’t miss the absence of her two front teeth. He stepped back and followed the boys out to the dining area, setting the platters on the table. Something about the woman bothered him and it had nothing to do with the lack of teeth. If he was a gambling man, he’d bet she was hiding something. He had a feeling Mrs. Parrish was not at all what she seemed.

 

Learn more about the Baker City Brides series on my website, or browse through my boards on Pinterest!

What about you? If you found yourself living at a mining camp in the late 1800s, what job would you have done? 

 

 

 

Pickup Riders

Our local rodeo season is about to head into full swing next week. We are fortunate enough to live in an area where we can attend four big rodeos, one every week, for a month.

Since Captain Cavedweller and I both enjoy rodeos, this is a grand thing. 

Thoughts of rodeos and the athletes that compete in them, both human and animal, made me think about a group of folks who largely go unnoticed at rodeo events — pickup men. 

(If you’re thinking about the drunk guys who hang around after the rodeo ends, wrong kind of pickup men!)

The pickup men I’m referring to today have one of the most important jobs at a rodeo because they are there to keep the athletes safe. In the arena, they look after the cowboy at the end of his ride as well as the horses and bulls used in rough stock events and they help with the overall production. They might work for the stock contractor or be employed directly by the rodeo association.

Regardless of how they come to be there, pickup men are often referred to as the ghosts of an arena. They ride in, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere, help a cowboy off a ton of twisting, bucking beast, then guide the animal from the arena before vanishing again. 

Depending on the size of the rodeo, you might see two of them working together while bigger rodeos have as many as six working at a time. 

Pickup men are in the arena from start to finish, but if all goes smoothly, rodeo fans might not notice them at all. Riding horses is second nature to many of the men who work as pickup men. They have to be able to rope a bucking bronc or a rank bull. They also have to be ale to think on the fly and make quick decisions. Out in the arena there isn’t time for talking and deciding what to do. They have to act intuitively. 

Once a cowboy and horse bust out of the chute, the pickup men are watching every move, ready to ride to the rescue or offer a hand when the eight-second buzzer sounds. 

During a ride, most anything can happen and does. 

Competitors can get hung up in rigging or stirrups and find themselves being dragged around the arena or getting an eyeball of dirt while dodging flying hooves. 

While their actions aren’t choreographed, the way pick up men work together can appear so flawless and performed with such ease, it looks like they’ve practiced the intricate dance that is based on their quick reactions and know-how.

Pickup men have cowboys crawling all over them and their horses which makes it essential they can handle a cowboy hanging off his shoulder.

 

Or his neck, or whatever else the athlete happens to get a hold of in his scramble to get off a wildly bucking bronc. 

The equipment a pickup man uses is vitally important to a smooth, successful rodeo, too. His saddle has to fit just right, many use specialized bits, and they all have a favorite brand of rope they use. Many use breast collars on their horses to keep their saddle from sliding back if they have to rope a bull. And it gives a little added advertising space to their stock contractor or sponsor.

The pickup man might wear shin guards, or kickpads, around their lower legs to protect from flying hooves, scrambling boots from the rodeo athlete as he tries to get off a bucking animal, or even just a saddle bronc saddle rubbing against it when he has the horse snubbed to get it out of the arena. 

Another piece of equipment no pickup man would work without is his chaps. They provide another layer of protection against the bucking horses and their saddles. 

It’s also important for their horses to be well-trained and able to keep up with a reaction that happens in a split-second. Many pickup men have a string of horses they use, rotating them out between each event.  One horse might do better picking up bareback riders while one might do better when it’s time to chase bulls out of the arena. Most pickup men will use splint boots for their horses for protection against injury. 

Some pickup men work smaller rodeos they can catch on a weekend and still keep their regular job (like ranching). 

Others travel non-stop on the rodeo circuit right along with the rodeo athletes, gone from home for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. 

At the end of the day, the pickup men are the unsung heroes who might have prevented a cowboy from receiving a serious injury, or kept a bull from charging into a crowd.

So, the next time you are at a rodeo, take a moment to watch these men at work and think about all they do to make the rodeo a safe place for everyone to enjoy. 

If you enjoy reading about rodeos, check out my Rodeo Romance series. Each book can be read as a stand alone and features a different rodeo event or personality. Right now, Racing Christmas is on sale for just 99 cents! The hero in the story just happens to be a pickup man.

“From the realistic rodeo scenes to the tender love scenes Shanna Hatfield keeps you reading.”

Jodi Thomas, New York Times Bestselling Author

She’s racing to save the ranch

He’s struggling to win her heart. . . again

Brylee Barton has just one goal in mind: win the barrel racing world championship. Not for the glory, but for the attached cash prize that could save her family’s ranch. When an injury leaves her at the mercy of the very same copper-headed, silver-tongued cowboy she once vowed to loathe forever, she has no choice but to swallow her pride and accept his help.

Fun-loving, easy-going Shaun Price has a million dollar smile, more charm than he can channel, and a string of ex-girlfriends rumored to have started their own support group. When the one woman he’s never quite managed to get out of his head or heart needs his assistance, he jumps at the chance to help. Little does he realize how challenging it will be to keep from falling for her all over again.

Will Shaun and Brylee discover the gift of forgiveness, and experience their own happily-ever-after?

Available on Amazon

Answer this question for a chance to win an autographed copy of The Christmas Cowboy, book 1 in the Rodeo Romance series! 

What is your favorite rodeo event? 

 

Grass Valley Cowboys

A few weeks ago, I was working on promotional plans for my books for the summer. As I browsed through my books, a little niggling thought kept popping up… one that said it was time for more book cover makeovers.

Every once in a while, I’ll give a book cover a new look. It’s fun and allows my brain to use some different creative skills. 

This time, the series I decided could use a new look is one of my favorites — the Grass Valley Cowboys. 

Set in the tiny Oregon town of Grass Valley, this series focuses on (as the title implies) the cowboys who live there. Specifically, cowboys from the Thompson and Morgan families.

I had such a good time writing these books and I do plan to write a few more before I bring the series to an end. The inspiration for the series came when I happened to drive through the area on the way to spend the weekend with my aunt and cousins. I just couldn’t help thinking what a fun setting Grass Valley would provide for a story.  Not only that, but one of my dear friends grew up in the area, and had stories to share about things that happened there.

The settlement of Grass Valley began with the establishment of a few stock ranches. Settlers began to arrive in the area and were soon plowing the cattle-sustaining grass to plant wheat fields.  Dr. Charles R. Rollins, a physician from New Hampshire, is credited with establishing Grass Valley when he arrived in the area with a small party of pioneers.  Dr. Rollins had an easy time choosing a name for the location since the rye grass grew thick and tall in the alkaline soil. Rollins built a large two-story hotel, which included a clinic from which he prescribed and sold medicine. 

The Grass Valley Cowboys series takes place in modern times, but as I wrote the stories, I often envisioned what life was like when the area was yet settled. When deer hid from hunters in the tall grass and those crossing the Oregon Trail pressed onward for the fir-dotted hills of the Willamette Valley. 

Here’s a little about the books and a look at the brand-spanking new covers!

The Cowboy’s Christmas Plan

Grass Valley Cowboys Book 1

Cadence Greer’s plans for a happy-ever-after are quickly derailed when her fiancé runs off with his secretary a week before their wedding. Homeless, jobless, and jilted, she escapes to Grass Valley, Oregon, where she takes a job as a housekeeper and cook to seven cowboys on a sprawling ranch.

Trey Thompson is a well-respected pillar of the community, running a successful ranch with his brother. All he wanted was someone to cook meals and keep the house clean. When he hires Cadence Greer for the job, he gets more than he ever planned on, including a sassy little redheaded orphan.

 

The Cowboy’s Spring Romance

Grass Valley Cowboys Book 2

Trent Thompson doesn’t have many secrets, except for the torch he’s carried for the new schoolteacher since she moved to Grass Valley more than three years ago. Instead of asking her out, he’s dated every single female in a thirty-mile radius, giving her the impression he holds no interest in knowing her.

Lindsay Pierce moved to Grass Valley to teach and quickly fell in love with the small community as well as the delightful people who live there. Everyone welcomes her warmly except for one obnoxious cowboy who goes out of his way to ignore her.

Will Trent be able to maintain the pretense when he has to babysit his niece, who happens to be in Lindsay’s class?

 

The Cowboy’s Summer Love

Grass Valley Cowboys Book 3

After six years in the service and two tours of duty in the middle of a war zone, Travis Thompson eagerly returns home to Grass Valley, ready to resume his life on the Triple T Ranch with his two older brothers. Ever the wild-child, Travis doesn’t disappoint as he rolls from one adventure to another in his quest to keep his adrenaline pumping. He needs a release for the tension constantly building inside him, especially after he discovers the girl he’s loved his entire life just moved back to Grass Valley.

In love with Travis Thompson since she was old enough to notice boys, Tess Morgan can’t stay away from him no matter how hard she tries. Convinced Travis sees her only as his best friend’s sister, she wants him to realize she is the woman who could love him deeply and passionately.

 

The Cowboy’s Autumn Fall

Grass Valley Cowboys Book 4

Brice Morgan thought love at first sight was some ridiculous notion of school girls and old ladies who read too many romance novels. At least he does until he falls hard and fast for an intriguing and thoroughly perplexing woman at a friend’s wedding.

Bailey Bishop attends her cousin’s wedding with no intention of extending her brief visit to Oregon. Married to her career as a paleontologist, Bailey tries to ignore her intense attraction to her cousin’s best friend, Brice. Ready to return home to Denver, Bailey instead accepts the opportunity to explore a new dig site not far from the family’s ranch in Grass Valley. Can she keep her feelings for Brice from derailing her plans for the future?

 

The Cowboy’s New Heart

Grass Valley Cowboys Book 5

Former bull rider Hart Hammond spent twenty years building a business empire while successfully avoiding love. He buried his heart the same day he made his last bull ride and has vowed to never make the mistake of loving a woman again. Then he meets the beautiful mother of the fun-loving Thompson tribe.

Years after her husband died, Denni Thompson can’t bear to think of giving her heart to anyone else. With three newly married sons, a grandchild on the way, and a busy life, Denni doesn’t entertain any notions of romance until she encounters the handsome new owner of Grass Valley’s gas station.

 

The Cowboy’s Last Goodbye

Grass Valley Cowboys Book 6

With his siblings and friends entangled in the state of matrimony, Ben Morgan is more determined than ever to remain blissfully single. Despite his vehement refusal to commit to a relationship, he can’t help but envision a future with the sweet, charming woman who unknowingly captures his heart.

Harper Hayes is an expert at bad relationships. After vowing never to wed, the idea enters her mind with alarming frequency after she meets Ben Morgan. Although the handsome cowboy makes it clear he’s only interested in having fun, Harper’s dog and crazy uncle have other ideas.

 

You can find all the books in the series on Amazon .

Also, for a limited time, The Cowboy’s Summer Love is on sale for just 99 cents! 

If you were going to come up with a name for a book in this series, what would you choose? 

Matrimony Vine

I was flipping through an old book about the Oregon desert the other day when a photo caught my eye of a vine climbing up the side of an old cabin.

The caption beneath the photo said, “Homesteaders’ wives needed something green in the middle of the gray desert.” 

Of course the photo was black and white, but the description went on to state that most women planted a matrimony vine. 

Matrimony vine? 

Although I loved the name, I’d never heard of it. 

A quick search revealed matrimony vine is also known as Chinese Wolfberry, Chinese Boxthorn, Himalayan Goji, Tibetan Goji. The deciduous shrub has roots that go back to Japan, Korea, and China. 

As the book I was reading stated, homesteaders who were trying to make a living in the sagebrush-dotted desert lands longed for a spot of color, something that would grow with minimal attention and water.  Many of them found what they were searching for with the matrimony vine. 

I could so easily picture a hardworking farm wife dumping her dishwater on the plant, eager to keep it green and growing in the sometimes harsh desert climate, especially those found in the dry interior of California, eastern Washington and eastern Oregon. 

Legends state a newlywed couple would plant the vine at their homestead to bless their marriage.

Matrimony vine was also a “pass along” plant that could be easily dug up and shared with others. Can’t you just see a mother digging up a bit of her beloved plant to share with her daughter when she wed?  The “lifted and gifted” plants seemed to thrive amid the desert climate.

Another way the plants came to America where with Chinese workers. The berries, popularly known as Goji, have been used for centuries by the Chinese in teas, as dried condiments, additions to stews and soups, as well as for medicinal purposes.

Waves of Chinese immigrants began arriving in San Francisco in the 1850s, and with these immigrants came components of their native culture, including the Goji berry. Tens of thousands of immigrants arrived, escaping poverty and civil war in China, initially bound for the gold fields of California. As they journeyed throughout the west for work, the Goji berry traveled along with them.

Today, stands of matrimony vine mark where homesteads long ago lost to time, fire, or other causes, once stood. The shrubs can also be found growing near old Chinese cemeteries.

Sadly, the plants have become host to the potato psyllid which is related to aphids and secretes a toxic saliva during feeding that causes great harm to potato plants. 

During my growing up years on our farm, we had one of these plants growing out behind our milk barn near the shed where we bottle fed calves. I had no idea what it was, but each spring, it burst forth with beautiful purple blossoms and each autumn, bright red berries begged to be picked. My mother told me it was poisonous and to leave it alone. Now I’m kind of wishing I’d plucked a few of those berries anyway. 

And there you have it, how matrimony vine came to be an invasive plant in the Pacific Northwest!

If you close your eyes and envision a homesteader dutifully keeping alive a plant in the midst of dirt and sagebrush, what do you picture?  

Landscape Architecture from the Past

Recently, I was eyeball deep in research for an upcoming historical release. 

In the story, set in 1913, the heroine is a nanny and the hero is a landscape architect. 

The hero, Flynn, runs a landscaping business with his sister. Not only does he design elaborate (or simple) gardens and yards, he also has a huge greenhouse where he develops and experiments with plants. 

When I started working on Flynn’s character and his profession, I did some research into landscape architects and greenhouses.

The first recorded greenhouses were in Rome around 30 AD. Legend states that the physicians of Emperor Tiberius told him he needed, for health purposes, to eat a cucumber every day. Supposedly, his scientists and engineers brainstormed how to grow plants year round and the greenhouse came to be.

Greenhouses traveled to America in the 1700s. They grew in popularity in England in the mid-1800s when glass began to be widely manufactured. The inspiration for Flynn’s greenhouse comes from the spectacular Temperate House at Kew Gardens in London. My gracious, I’ve added this impressive garden to my bucket list of places I hope to someday see.

Temperate House is the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse and recently reopened after an extensive renovation process. Some of the world’s rarest and most threatened species of plants are among the 1,500 species of plants from Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific Islands included on display.

Of course, Flynn’s greenhouse isn’t as magnificent as this or nearly as large, but it did give me some wonderful ideas of what his greenhouse might look like. And he has an interesting collection of plants and flowers he’s collected from his travels around the world.

When I first considered Flynn’s career, the term landscape architect seems so modern. But I discovered the roots of the profession go back to 1828 when Gilbert Laing Meason, a Scotsman, wrote a book offering insights into the art of relating architecture to landscape. William Andrews Nesfield was reportedly the first person hired as a “landscape architect. He designed garden areas for Buckingham Palace in London and Castle Howard in Yorkshire. In 1863, Fredrick Law Olmstead used the term landscape architecture for designing public open space (parks). Olmstead is known as the father of American Landscape Architecture. I like to think his work helped inspire my character Flynn.

In the story, Evie (releasing May 23), Flynn is hired to design and install an elaborate garden at the home of a well-to-do couple with three young children. Flynn finds himself falling for the nanny and scheming ways to spend time with the effervescent woman. 

Will love bloom between a spunky nanny and a distracted landscaper?

Unconventional nanny Evie Caswell views it as her duty to bring fun and laughter to the residence of her strict, aloof employers. Full of life and spirit, she is determined to teach the couple’s children how to be young and carefree. With hardly a minute to herself, she long ago surrendered her dreams of having her own home and a family. Then her employer hires Flynn Elliott, a landscape architect, to turn the yard into a spectacular garden. Enchanted with the intriguing man, Evie realizes after meeting Flynn nothing in her life will ever be the same.

Renowned for his landscape designs and ability to make anything grow, Flynn Elliott is a bit of an enigma. He spouts romantic poetry to the plants in his greenhouse and stealthily avoids social interactions, yet can charm birds right out of the trees when the need arises. While his sister handles the finer details of their business, he often loses himself in his work, forgetting the outside world exists. A chance encounter with a beautiful woman in a moonlit garden leaves him seeking opportunities to discover more about the effervescent Evie and the joy she radiates to those around her.

Will the two of them be able to set aside their doubts and fears to embrace a happily ever after?

Brimming with lighthearted moments, snippets of history, and the hope of true love, Evie is a sweet historical romance sure to warm your heart. 

Available May 23, you can pre-order your copy today! 

If you could travel back to 1913, what career would you choose?

Go-Carts and Baby Carriages

Recently, I was diving deep into research for a story set in 1913. 

Among the resource books piled on my desk was my trusty reproduction copy of a 1908 Sears, Roebuck & Co Catalog. I love all the little everyday details I can unearth in its many pages! 

I was searching for baby gear that day. Partly because it tied into the story I was writing (the heroine is a nanny to three little ones), and party because I’ve had baby on the brain for the last few months as we awaited the arrival of my niece’s first baby. 

In particular, I was interested in a description of baby carriages.

 

I wanted to see images of what they would have looked like during that time period.

Did they have any unique features or selling points? What would make a young mother decide to purchase this option or that one?

I had grand visions of ornate carriages with flowery details. 

What I didn’t anticipate was to be so surprised by the product description. 

Notice anything strange in the description?

They called them Go-Carts! 

I had no idea they’d ever been labeled as go-carts. 

On the following page they had advertisements for baby carriages. 

I studied both pages for a while, reading the descriptions, trying to figure out what the difference could be.

At first I thought that perhaps a carriage meant the baby could rest flat and a go-cart meant they were sitting upright. But the go-carts advertise being able to recline.

Then it a light bulb went off. I think the difference is that go-carts can be moved into different positions and many of them could be folded flat (how handy!) like a stroller. 
I tried to dig up some research to either confirm my idea or dash it, but I have yet to find anything that talks about go-carts from Victorian or Edwardian days. 

I did find an interesting history of baby carriages, though. 
William Kent, a landscape architect, designed the first carriage in 1733. It was created for the children of the Duke of Devonshire. Kent constructed a shell-shaped  basket on wheels the children could sit in and be pulled by a goat or pony. 

Wealthy families were Kent’s primary customers. 

The 19th century was a time when parks and recreational spaces were enjoyed as family strolls became popular. An economical way to take babies along needed to be developed. 

Benjamin Potter Crandall manufactured a new design in the early 1800s. He claimed his baby carriages were the first manufactured in the US, although it’s been argued

 the F.A. Whitney Carriage Company may hold the title. At any rate, Crandall developed a style that could could be pushed rather than pulled. His design was largely rejected. His son son, Jesse, eventually took over the business and made some additions, including a brake and added a model that folded as well as parasols and accessories. Reportedly, Queen Victoria purchased three of them which made his designs a must-have for mothers everywhere. 

Carriages were built of wood or wicker and held together with expensive brass joints. Often, they turned into ornamented works of arts. 

Models were named after royalty, like Princess and Duchess.

Charles Burton created the first “pram” or perambulator. It had a three-wheel push design and looked a little like an arm chair on big spoke wheels. Customers found it unwieldy and complained about the design, but Burton was determined to succeed. He took his design to England where he found popularity once the royals began using it. In the UK, the word pram is used to describe a carriage, because of the popularity of the perambulator.

In 1889, William H. Richardson patented the idea of the first reversible carriage. The bassinet was designed to face out or in toward the parent. Until that point, the axis didn’t allow each wheel to move separately, but Richard’s design increased maneuverability. 

Before long, go-carts were being advertised that could fold flat, recline and more. 

As the new century advanced, so did improvements with baby carriages and strollers until we reached today’s models, filled with accessories and safety features. 

If you’d like to find out more about the story that necessitated this research, look for Evie, coming May 23! It’s available now for pre-order on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/y4gnadrk 

Will love bloom between a spunky nanny and a distracted landscaper?

Unconventional nanny Evie Caswell views it as her duty to bring fun and laughter to the residence of her strict, aloof employers. Full of life and spirit, she is determined to teach the couple’s children how to be young and carefree. With hardly a minute to herself, she long ago surrendered her dreams of having her own home and a family. Then her employer hires Flynn Elliott, a landscape architect, to turn the yard into a spectacular garden. Enchanted with the intriguing man, Evie realizes after meeting Flynn nothing in her life will ever be the same.

Renowned for his landscape designs and ability to make anything grow, Flynn Elliott is a bit of an enigma. He spouts romantic poetry to the plants in his greenhouse and stealthily avoids social interactions, yet can charm birds right out of the trees when the need arises. While his sister handles the finer details of their business, he often loses himself in his work, forgetting the outside world exists. A chance encounter with a beautiful woman in a moonlit garden leaves him seeking opportunities to discover more about the effervescent Evie and the joy she radiates to those around her.

Will the two of them be able to set aside their doubts and fears to embrace a happily ever after?

Brimming with lighthearted moments, snippets of history, and the hope of true love, Evie is a sweet historical romance sure to warm your heart. 

~*~

Oh, and if you’re wondering, my niece and her sweet husband welcomed a bouncing baby boy April 2! I was there for his arrival, but can’t wait to return for a visit and hold Baby T again! 

~*~

If any of you know any history about the difference in go-carts and baby carriages, I’d love to learn more.

In the meantime, feel free to share your favorite “baby” item. What makes your heart pitter-patter and think of babies when you see it? A blanket? An adorable pair of booties? Sweet little onesies?

 

Where Bustles and Spurs Meet

The thought of bustles and spurs and how at odds the two things can be just makes me smile.

I love (LOVE) writing about cowboys and anytime I can work in the jingling of spurs, even better! 

I also love writing about unlikely couples. You know the type… it might be city versus country or uptight versus laid-back. 

One book in particular, Crumpets and Cowpies, was such fun for me to write because the couple was about as opposite as they could be. She was an English Lady. He was a rough rancher from Eastern Oregon. How in the world could these two find common ground let alone fall in love? 

Well, that’s part of the joy of writing for me. 

In this story, Lady Jemma despises the rough cowboy who’s shown up on her doorstep. She’s as proper as they come and refuses to put up with what she views as his insufferable ideas and overbearing disposition. 

Thane Jordan is called to England to settle his brother’s estate only to discover he’s inherited much more than he expected. To claim his inheritance, he has to put up with the fussy, tightly-laced Lady Jemma. 

Here’s a fun little scene that illustrates how well the two of them get along:

“There’s one more thing we need to discuss.” Thane smirked in the familiar way that both aggravated and excited her as she looked at him again.

“What might that be?”

“This…” Thane reached behind her, grabbing her bustle and giving it a gentle tug. She sucked in a gulp of air at his outlandish behavior. “Has got to go.”

At her abhorrent glare, he let go of the bustle and took a step back, although his grin broadened. “You can’t work on a ranch with that thing flopping around behind you. You can dress however you like when we go into town, but for life on the ranch, you need to put it away. While I’m on that subject, you can’t go around with your corset laced so tight it makes you faint.”

She glared at him. “I did not faint.”

“You came darn close and I won’t have you putting your health in danger just to make an already tiny waist smaller. You can wear it, if you insist, just don’t lace it so tight. Since you’re going to be getting new clothes, make sure you get them to fit with the corset loosened.”

Jemma trembled with fury as she stood in front of him, about to combust with anger. She couldn’t believe he would dare converse about such personal, sensitive topics as her bustle and corset.  “You, sir, are a…”

“Save it, Jem. Unless you can invent some new words to call me, I’ve heard it before.”

Thane gave her bustle another tug as he walked by, returning outside to where he’d been hammering horseshoes at the forge.

You can find Crumpets and Cowpies along with the other Baker City Brides stories on Amazon here: http://tinyurl.com/yxer7bca

To enter for a chance to win a digital copy of the prelude to the Baker City Brides series along with the first three books, just post your answer to this question: 

If you were Lady Jemma, what would you do?

Set aside your bustle or continue to wear it?