It’s springtime and changes are afoot. It’s hard to believe I’ve been a blogger on Petticoats and Pistols for ten months — the time has whizzed by. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously and would like to thank you all for your comments, your kind words, and most of all, for making me laugh on a daily basis.
I’d also like to thank my fellow Fillies for being such great friends. These ladies are as gracious and funny behind the scenes as they are in their blogs.
Alas, though, it’s time to say goodbye. Because of my heavy writing schedule for the next year — both with my Westerns and with screenwriting — I have to part with blogging on a regular basis. I’ll miss you all, but I’ll be dropping in when I can, and hope to guest blog on occasion. Petticoats and Pistols will always remain one of my favorite places.
My next book is out this November — ALASKAN RENEGADE. If you haven’t already signed up for my newsletter to get my latest updates, please visit my website and do sign up. www.katebridges.com
Okay, here’s my last historical tidbit before I go. Did you know that the word ‘goodbye’ comes from a shortened version of ‘God be with ye?’
Wishing all of you the very best!
There are other exciting changes coming up in Wildflower Junction I know you’ll love. We’re adding more Fillies to the roster. Scroll down to find out who…and please give them that warm wonderful welcome you all gave me.
If you lived back in the Old West, chances are the tinsmith ran one of your favorite shops. To an untrained eye, entering his store might look as though you’re entering a cluttered space. But if you look closer, you’ll note the fine tools, the specialty patterns and the intricate designs. What you’ll love most of all is the usefulness of every product.
There was an art to handling tin. The fine detailed work often lent itself to women’s hands, and I can well imagine the tinsmith’s wife or daughter working just as hard as the man himself in designing the tools, the well-crafted shapes, and coming up with ideas for new products.
Here are a sampling of things available to a person in the 1860s.
Lanterns of all sorts.
Cookie cutters. How would you like to have a cookie in the shape of a horse’s head?
Tin ceiling tiles, designed to your liking.
And best of all, if you lived in a cold climate, how about some duct work going from the stove to the ceiling, thereby warming the floor of the upper story above you?
You’ve probably spotted other kitchen pots and utensils for sale on the back walls. Do you have your credit card ready? What’s the first thing you’d buy?
It’s spring! My thoughts turn to planting and what I’m going to do with my flowerbeds this year.
I can well imagine how much joy the gardens brought to the settlers of the Old West as they tried to scratch something valuable out of the soil.
In my novels, I’ve mentioned all types of gardens. Or thought I had. There were those belonging to apothecaries and doctors – the herb gardens they planted to create remedies and cures. There were those belonging to florists, who would plant their flowers for market. Restaurant cooks planted vegetables and herbs to use in their dishes. Private citizens grew produce, too, not to mention orchards for fruit wherever the land could sustain it.
But recently in my research, I came across a type of garden that took me by surprise. I’d simply never thought of it: the town weaver and his or her special garden where they planted a spectrum of plants to create powders and liquids for the dyeing of fabrics.
That must have been fun! Wild bursts of color, rich seeds that started out pink and ripened to a rich berry, roots that dyed fabrics blue or black, or maybe some exotic plant from China that grew from fragrant seeds passed along from some stranger on a wagon train.
The town weaver was a valuable asset to any growing Western town.From their maze of looms, they produced blankets and coverlets, shawls and rugs. No scraps went to waste here. They collected rags from the community and produced cloth balls that had a dozen uses around the house—anything from knotting rope to hanging laundry to creating rag rugs.
The photos of this weaver’s shop are circa 1860s.
The color of the plant or flower doesn’t necessarily correlate to the end result of dye color. There are hundreds of plant choices. Here’s a sampling of some common ones, a few of which surprised me:
sunflower – pressing the seeds creates a bright yellow oil; combining different plant parts produces dyes in the color of tan, gray, and green
indigo – rich blue color obtained from the leaves– the dye is colorfast, very desirable
goldenrod – root contains a brilliant yellow dye
white birch tree – leaves give a yellow dye; inner bark creates lavender, tan, or purple
elderberry – purples and blues
bloodroot – juice of the stem and roots for the color red
flowering dogwood – bark produces a red dye; root produces violet
Have you started your gardening yet? Do you prefer planting vegetables or flowers? Or neither? Have you ever hand-dyed an object? When I was younger, some of my friends dyed their leather shoes (ie. for dance class). I tried it once but they didn’t turn out right.
There must have been something special about the town weaver – a professional craftsman who knew what he was doing.
Did you know that raw honey, properly stored, doesn’t spoil? Archeologists have uncovered ancient tombs from Egypt—some bearing honey in sealed containers that is still of good quality and edible.
Earliest caveman paintings – 13,000 B.C. – depict people getting stung by bees as they try to collect the gooey liquid.
Honey is the source of many traditional myths. In Greek mythology, honey was considered one of the foods of the Gods of Olympus, a drink or nectar they consumed to achieve immortality.
Hippocrates, the father of medicine, emphasized its nutritional and medicinal values. Several centuries later, the art of beekeeping (apiculture) passed down to the Romans and then the rest of the world. Beekeepers encourage an overproduction of honey in their hives so that the excess can be removed without leaving a dangerous food shortage for the bees. In cold weather and when food sources are scarce, the bees survive on their honey.
A healthy hive contains about 40-60,000 bees. Honeybees visit approximately two million flowers to make a pound of honey. To produce one ounce, a bee has to make about 1600 round trips from the flower source (one round trip can be as long as 6 miles). Average lifespan? 4-6 weeks. No one said it was easy to be a bee.
For 4,000 years, honey has been used as a remedy for health ailments. Here are a few:
– Ancient Egyptians used it for burns, skin ulcers and wounds
– Inflammation of the eyelids
– Athlete’s foot and fungal infections
– Stomach aches and diarrhea
– Sore throat
– Recently, a New Zealand scientist discovered one particular honey with high levels ofantibacterial properties to treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria
Honey was also used for all kinds of ailments that it actually did not help to cure. There are still many inaccurate claims out there.
Not all honey is created equal. The quality depends on the source of the pollen—the types of plants used by the bees. Recently, some experts have been suggesting that if you suffer from hay fever allergies, you might desensitize your allergies by eating local honey produced by bees that have used local plants. Amazing stuff!
Beeswax is used in cosmetics, such as lip balms. Other uses: candles, lubricants for doors, bow strings, furniture polish. Royal jelly, a pollen-and-honey combination used specifically to feed the larvae which develops into the Queen Bee, is used in skin creams to fight aging.
Raw honey may be pasteurized (heated) to kill any yeast that may be present. Yeast causes honey to ferment and crystallize, so pasteurizing slows this process. Crystallized honey can be brought back to liquid form by gently heating it—but not boiling.
The nutritional benefits of honey include vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. Never feed an infant or young child honey–including baked goods with honey—because it can cause botulism, a type of food poisoning that can be fatal. Pasteurizing honey does not make it any safer against botulism.
When honey is fermented with yeast and water, it develops into an alcoholic liquid called mead. Mead was a favorite beverage with the English and Europeans, and used around the world as far back as 8,000 years ago. It may have been the first type of alcohol ever invented, predating wine. It was flavored and brewed with spices and fruits. It’s still sold today.
In Classic Greek, the word ‘drunk’ means ‘honey-intoxicated’. Some say the English word ‘honeymoon’ is traceable to the father of the bride giving the couple enough alcoholic mead to celebrate for a month—but others dispute the origin of the word.
What’s your favorite source of sweetener? Did your mom or grandmother use honey in any form to soothe any of your ailments? Have you ever tasted mead?
The lost art of ironing—I say this tongue-in-cheek because I’m glad those days are gone. But does anyone else remember growing up and helping their mom create wonderful, crisp little piles of folded sleeves and collars, and warm linens that draped so beautifully you could hang them in a store window?
And remember how good they smelled, coming in off the clothes line?
I was the only girl in the house, and as soon as I was tall enough to stand behind an ironing board, it was my job to press the tea towels and bed sheets. This usually took place once a week in the evening, in front of our black-and-white TV, watching Carol Burnett.
Tea towels were my favorite because I could easily manage their size. I’d fold one in thirds along the length, press the two seams, then fold it horizontally in thirds again, and press it. Those were the days before automatic steam irons, so I hand-sprinkled water onto the cloth, then lowered the iron to sear them, fully enjoying the sizzling and popping sounds I received as my reward. My mom’s tea towels came in all colors. I admired and appreciated each one, and noticed instantly if she ever bought a new pattern.
I guess it was a girl thing.
We never had a lot growing up, in fact I think we only had one set of sheets for each bed, but they were always freshly laundered and pressed. Today, my mom would cringe at the state of my own linens, if I allowed her to look. But then, she never worked full time as a writer like I do, so it’s NOT MY FAULT.
Recently on a visit to a pioneer museum, I stopped in the kitchen and marveled at the irons they had on display, resting on the stove where they were heating. There was more than one type? You could have several irons of various sizes and shapes? How decadent!
I wanted each one!
I’m not sure what I would do with them. Maybe, since I’m a writer, I’d just sit and gaze at the clunky irons and wonder about the mother-daughter stories behind them.
See the one with the ridges? It’s called a rocking style fluting iron and was used to ruffle, crimp, or press little pleats into starched fabric. It also gave the fabric a special sheen. Fluting irons were often used for collars and cuffs to give added distinction—and were in their heyday in the mid to late 1800s. Blacksmiths often forged cast iron stands, called trivets, for the fancier irons.
There were dozens and dozens of different types of irons. Slender ones for hard-to-reach places like sleeves, irons used just for hats, delicate laces, or for pressing flowers, or for billiard tables. And—I would have loved this—small irons made for children. I’ll never take my single iron for granted again!
Times have changed and I’m glad we no longer have to iron everything we wear. I’m in love with poly-cotton blends. My husband, God bless him, irons his own shirts and laundry. Yet, there’s still this little niggling of guilt that I don’t do it for him. It’s NOT MY JOB, I tell myself, and wonder where the guilt comes from. Probably because growing up in a house full of boys, I was the only girl and the only one assigned to ironing chores.
They turned out to be wonderful memories….
Have you seen the recent remake of the movie Hairspray, and John Travolta’s character as the mom who is the professional laundress? I would have loved that job!
Do you have happy ironing memories? Do you still love a good crease? <g> Did you ever make your own starch? My mom had a store-bought spray starch she used once in a while, but I was never allowed near it. What chores were you responsible for as a kid, and which ones did you enjoy the most?
I’m giving away a book! WESTERN WEDDINGS, an anthology I share with Jillian Hart and our very own Filly, Charlene Sands, to one lucky person who posts a comment today.
One of the reasons I love to set my books in Alaska is because of the history of the women. When gold was discovered in the Klondike in 1896, a hundred thousand people from all over the world flocked to Skagway, Alaska, headed for the Klondike. Only thirty thousand made it over the mountains. A small fraction of them were women, and their stories are often overlooked in history.
A few weeks ago, I blogged about Skagway and its famous criminal, Soapy Smith. Today, the topic is women.
That’s me at the border between Alaska and the Yukon. I like to think I’m standing at the top of the world.
My novel, WANTED IN ALASKA, starts off in Skagway. It was a remarkable town because of the freedom that women had to pursue their goals. At the start of the gold rush, it’s estimated that only 2 to 4% of the population was made up of women. The percentage climbed quickly. By 1900, just a short four years after it began, women made up roughly 20% of the town. Because the land was uncivilized and lawless before they arrived, the women of Alaska had fewer constrictions than their sisters in the lower states. They owned their own property, ran businesses and shops without the help of men, and some even traveled to the Klondike and struck gold on their own.
Hooray for Alaska! Women weren’t coddled–unless they wanted to be. There were the prostitutes who earned their living, but there were many more law-abiding, hardworking women who opened jewelry stores, sandwich shops, cafés, laundry houses, and even those who tried their hand at casinos. Women knew how to look good in a corset and gown, but many also knew how to chop wood, balance a ledger, hire and fire workers, and get a house built. Many of them became wealthy in their own right.
In WANTED IN ALASKA, my heroine, Autumn MacNeil, is a singer in a hotel who’s desperately trying to get a business loan from one of the male bankers in town but, so far, is unsuccessful. Her goal is to open up a hotel of her own. Along comes the hero and distracts her from her troubles. At a masquerade ball, he mistakes her for the town nurse, and in an act of desperation to help his wounded brother, kidnaps her. This sets them on a wild collision course. It was a fun one to write. The novel hits bookstores this week.
Over the years as I’ve researched and written my Westerns, there are other things about the Wild West that I’ve found fascinating. For instance, when the Western frontier first opened up, the average ratio of men to women was roughly 10 to 1. Women were cherished and respected because they were scarce. Consequently, a married woman who was being abused by her husband wasn’t as afraid to get a divorce and leave him. She would be quickly snatched up by a kinder man, and she and her children would be well taken care of. Therefore, the divorce rate in the West was slightly higher than the Eastern seaboard. Depending on the state, women had more freedom in property rights, voting, and marriage. It’s that freedom that I love to write about.
Is there anything that surprises you about the West, when you read our novels? Do you enjoy the many different occupations in our storylines?
Or, if you’re a Western writer yourself, what draws you to this era? Is there a particular time period, or state, you love to write about?
“In all her books set in the icy wilderness of the northern provinces, Bridges brings strong, admirable heroes and independent-minded women to life. There’s nothing hotter in these cold locales than her stories laced with humor, passion and danger.”4 Stars! Romantic Times magazine on WANTED IN ALASKA
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to live without your lipstick?
Cosmetics have been around for thousands of years, promising to make our lips rosier, eyes brighter and complexions clearer.
In 4,000 B.C., Egyptian women lined their eyes with leaded paints and copper. This was poisonous to their health but they didn’t know it. For nail polish, the Chinese used beeswax, egg whites and gelatin, dating back to 3,000 B.C.. Certain colors were restricted to royalty. Using the wrong color nail polish was punishable by death.
In Greco-Roman times, the Middle Ages, and Elizabethan times, pale faces were much more desirable for women than any skin touched by the sun. A tan was considered crude and reserved for women who worked the fields. Unfortunately, this led to various creams applied to the face to reduce blood flow, such as lead paint or arsenic face powder, which caused illness.
In the mid 1800s, Queen Victoria declared that wearing makeup was vulgar, and should be reserved only for actors. Prostitutes used it, too. This rigid attitude carried over to North America, and so women rarely wore cosmetics until the late 1800s, toward the end of her reign. By the time her son King Edward VII became king in 1901, makeup and its manufacture was beginning to flourish.
On the Western frontier in the 1800s, wearing no makeup was often the preferred look, but there were little tricks women used to make themselves look better. Makeup that looked natural was usually the goal.
Blush: Pinching the cheeks made them rosier, also pinching the lips. Rouge was available to buy in small tins.
Mascara: Some women used beeswax on their lashes to make them look thicker. Kohl is a mixture of soot and other ingredients and was used on the eyelids and eyelashes to darken them—first used byEgyptian queens. Darkening the area around the eyes also helped protect the eyes from sun glare.
In France, Eugene Rimmel was the first to develop a non-toxic mascara in the late 1800s, sometime before his death in 1887. It was a cake-like substance. Modern mascara as we know it was invented in 1913 byT.L. Williams, a chemist, for his sister Mabel. He saw his sister applying coal dust and Vaseline to her lashes, and so he made and marketed the stuff. He named his company Mabelline as a combination of her name and Vaseline.
Eyeliner:Some women used burnt matches once they cooled.
Petroleum jelly:Vaseline petroleum jelly was patented in the 1870s.
Hair removal: From about 3,000 B.C. women were removing body hair with scary ingredients they made from things like arsenic and starch. By 500 B.C. Roman women were removing body hair with razor blades and pumice stones, and using tweezers to pluck their eyebrows. By the early 1800s, European women were making homemade depilatories—walnut oil was one popular ingredient. From 1895 to 1904, Mr. Gillette perfected the development of his safety razor.
Underarm deodorant:Mum deodorant was the first invented in 1888 by an unknown inventor from Philadelphia.
Lipstick: Egyptians used a type of henna to stain their lips—back then it was a poisonous substance made of plant dye, iodine and bromine. Cleopatra wore lipstick made from crushed carmine beetles, which gave her a deep red pigment. Lipstick became popular as we know it during the 16th century by Queen Elizabeth I, where lipstick was made from a combination of beeswax and red plant stains.
Acne fighters: Pharaohs in Egypt used a combination of mineral water mixed with sulphur. Ancient Romans bathed in hot sulphurous mineral water. During the 1800s, sulphur treatments were applied to the skin but it was very drying and didn’t always work.
Hair: Sheen was created by brushing the hair a hundred times at night; using lemon rinses; adding eggs to shampoo. Hennas have been very popular since Egyptian times to color the hair. Hair dyes were often used discreetly in England and America during the 1800s, although one didn’t admit it in public.
Max Factor is often referred to as the father of modern makeup. He was born in Poland in the 1870s (original name was spelled Faktor). Later, he moved to Moscow and worked with theatrical groups, where he created cosmetics, fragrances and wigs. He became the cosmetic expert for the Russian royal family. In 1904, he immigrated to New York with his family, and that year at the St. Louis World’s Fair, he introduced his handmade rouges, lipsticks, wigs and creams to American women. His items became so popular he developed his own line of cosmetics.
Besides my list, do you know of anything else women used for personal makeup and grooming? Do you recall anything your grandmother used? I once found an old curling iron in a trunk that didn’t have an electrical cord, but it was obviously intended to be heated in coals. I was shocked they thought of that way back then.
Is there a certain cosmetic that you couldn’t live without?
I’ve never been big on going out for New Year’s Eve. I’d much rather stay home with family and friends. This year we’re hosting a dinner party and playing euchre. We’re big card-players on both sides of the family, and love to include the kids and cousins and grandparents.
You know what’s so great about playing cards?
You can have a decent conversation while you’re doing it! Sometimes the art of conversation is lost around me–getting through dinner, carpooling kids to school, helping with homework, and running a thousand other errands. When I play cards, I spend hours talking and listening and enjoying everyone’s company.
Of course, this means I’ll be getting out my candles for tonight’s event. Yes, I’m one of those candle people. Firelight calms my spirit, brings the conversation lower (important with noisy kids in the background) and just conveys an intimate mood. I can’t handle the scented ones, though, they give me a headache!
Below is my favorite corner of the kitchen that we always decorate for the holidays in some different way. Stained glass cabinets that I designed, and when they light up they remind me of a fireplace. It’s sort of a joke around here that it reminds us so much of a fireplace, we hang Christmas stockings off the knobs!
So what are your plans for the evening?
Be safe tonight and enjoy your plans, whatever they may be!
HAVE A WONDERFUL NEW YEAR’S EVE AND A FABULOUS 2009!
We’re very excited here at Wildflower Junction. Company’s coming! YOU!
We’ve decorated our saddles, polished up the silver and have the fireplace roasting. You’re invited to join us for the next fun-filled two weeks for holidays jam-packed with surprises, and incredible storytelling by our very own Miss Patricia Potter.
Her story is called SHOWDOWN. Set in Texas, it’s an exciting tale about a man in a gunfight who’s about to draw his weapon, debating about all the things he’s done in his life to get to this desperate point, and what he’s going to do about the woman he loves. The whole story takes place in six heart-stopping minutes. That’s right, only six, and you’ll be amazed how Pat weaves the story seamlessly together and keeps us guessing minute by minute what Jared Walker will do next.
Here’s how Pat describes her inspiration: “SHOWDOWN first appeared in a short story collection, IN OUR DREAMS, published by Kensington. Other participants included Linda Lael Miller, Mary Jo Putney, Susan Wiggs, Barbara Cummings, Ruth Glick and Mary Kirk. The theme was Heartthrobs, Hunks and Heroes. We each took a favorite hero from movies and television. Mine was inspired by Paden (played by Kevin Kline) in Silverado. He epitomized the reluctant hero, my favorite western theme.”
Sounds great, doesn’t it? We’re honored that Pat is sharing her story with us!
Starting early tomorrow, we’ll be posting a new chapter each morning, Monday to Friday, so please stop by for another riveting installment. And don’t forget our guest author next weekend.
We’d also like to invite you into our homes and show you what special things we’re doing for Christmas and the New Year, sharing our photos, recipes and traditions. Each afternoon, a new Filly will share something special to her. So pour yourselves an eggnog, give the kids something to distract ’em, put your feet up and stay a while.
During these next two weeks, the Fillies are taking a holiday break away from our computers. But just like you, as we’re visiting family and spending time with friends, we’ll be stopping by to read Pat’s story, each other’s blogs, and all the wonderful messages you leave for us. So please do continue to post your thoughts and messages, for we appreciate each one.
Enjoy the holiday season, don’t let your feet get too sore from running around, and drop by anytime to relax at Petticoats and Pistols!
The Fillies are sending each of you our very best wishes for a loving holiday season.