Pam’s Winner!

. . . is ALICIA HANEY

Watch for my email, Alicia, and I’ll get your prize right off to you.

 Don’t forget!  Next Tuesday is release day for HER TEXAS COWBOY, the second book in my Blackstone Ranch series.

Yee-haw!

An Adorable Craft from Godey’s Lady’s Book! by Pam Crooks

Then . . . 

Perhaps you’ve seen my recent post on Facebook about the amazing gift a writer friend gave me – an 1866 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book featuring the year’s worth of magazines.  Trust me.  I couldn’t have been more surprised.  Or honored. Her gift will always be a treasure for me.

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If you’re not familiar with the publication, it’s precisely what the title describes.  A magazine for the 1800’s woman whose pages were chock full of any and everything she would find interesting and/or necessary in her life.  One issue would contain:

  • Needlework patterns
  • Sewing patterns, for dolls on up to adults
  • Craft ideas
  • Recipes (or ‘Receipts’)
  • Poetry
  • Literary articles
  • Beauty tips
  • Advice for juveniles
  • Parlor dramas (plays)
  • Fashions and hair styles, including colorized fashion plates
  • Advice for the downtrodden
  • Music for a piano-forte
  • and the list continues . . . 

As I immediately began to browse through the yellowed and fragile pages, I discovered a craft in the January magazine.  It was so cute and could be made even today.  Be sure to envision it in a rich green silk with gold spangles. (Note: Since the writers of the time tended to be um, wordy, I’ve tightened the text for easier reading.)

Ornamental Cork for a Wine Bottle

A sort of crown of leaves.  The cork should be a very long one, and the upper part thinned off all around with a knife.

Cover with a piece of green silk. 

To form the leaves:  take a strip of the same material 19 inches long and 2 broad. Cut it out with pointed lappets. 

Work round each lappet in tight buttonhole stitch with green purse silk over a piece of wire.

Cut the outer edges close to the stitches.  Hem the straight side of the strip, then arrange in rounds over the top of the cork.

Bend the leaves slightly backwards.

Finish off the tips with round gold spangles.

That’s it, but let me say one thing.

Thank goodness for wired ribbon–and for sparing us from having to make all those tiny stitches women would’ve done routinely back then!  The end result is the same, too.

And now . . . 

In FIVE more days, the second book of my Blackstone Ranch trilogy will be released!  

PreOrder from Tule Book Store

PreOrder from Amazon

My heroine, Lucienne Dunn, is a fashion plate herself and has an affection for stilettos. As a fun tie-in with my Godey’s Lady’s Book wine-bottle-stopper-craft, I’ll be giving away this novelty stiletto wine bottle stopper!

Just let me know if you enjoy making fun crafts.  Do you sew? Knit? Embroider? Do wood-working?

Let’s talk about your talents!

Pam’s Winner!

 

 

   Tonya Lucas!

 

Thanks to all who stopped by today as I featured my new Blackstone Ranch series!

Stay tuned, ladies . . . 

 

And Tonya, I’ll message you for the specifics of sending you a free copy of Book #1 in my Blackstone Ranch series, A COWBOY AND A PROMISE.

My Blackstone Ranch Series – It’s all about the details! by Pam Crooks

Many readers inhale series romance for the obvious reasons.  Done well, characters that have endeared the reader in one book live on in subsequent books.  We get to see their lives, their happiness, the town or ranch where they live, sometimes even the villain or his gang that continue to be a thorn in the characters’ sides.

I’ve done numerous series over the years, and I love writing them as much as the reader loves reading them.  I’m excited that the release of Book #2 and #3 of my first contemporary western romance series with Tule Publishing is drawing closer and closer.

To write a series, an author must keep track of the details.  This is crucial and shows professionalism.  To make mistakes in one’s own books is sloppy, and you can bet the readers will pick up on carelessness.

For me, my saving grace is Microsoft’s One Note. Oh my goodness, I can’t survive without these ‘notebooks’ that keep the gazillion notes, research, images, and yep, details right at my fingertips.

A COWBOY AND A PROMISE is available now.  As Book #1, I had to set up the three ex-military brothers who live on Blackstone Ranch.  I also had to set up the town named after their great-grandfather.  And of course, there are businesses in that town, and people to run them, and the list goes on and on.

I was very careful to weave many details throughout all three books to keep them connected and real, and I’m happy to share a few now:

In Book #1, A COWBOY AND A PROMISE, Beau Paxton is a twin who has served in Afghanistan with his two brothers.  All three come back to heal, run the ranch, and help their mother care for their crippled father. 

All are respected and well-liked in Paxton Springs and enjoy fond memories growing up, like fresh popcorn in Mary’s Mercantile.  That same popcorn comes back in Book #3 and the mercantile’s owners play a nice part for Shandi, the heroine.

In Book #2, HER TEXAS COWBOY, Brock Paxton is scruffy-cheeked and suffers from being excluded by his twin once Beau finds Ava, his true love.  It’s that loneliness that sets him up for Lucienne in his book.

Jace Paxton is the oldest, also womanless, but always searching and having fun along the way.  His skill is working cattle, which plays a huge part in his Book #3, MY KIND OF COWBOY.

You can bet they drive the same color of Ford F-150 pickups, wear the same color Stetsons, and ride the same breed of horses throughout the series that I set-up in Book #1.

Their favorite watering hole in town is the Greasy Bull, which plays a huge part of Book #3. Their friend, Nash, is the local deputy and a former classmate whom the Paxton brothers depend on to help solve the troubles they encounter in their own books.

In Book #1, Ava arrives from New York.  Her favorite color is pink, which I show numerous times and then remind the reader in a nightgown she lends to Shandi in Book #3.  Her skill is in construction, and she’s crucial in building the vacation resort which is a basis for the entire series.

In Book #2, Lucienne is rich and hugely into fashion, much to Ava’s frugalness and chagrin.  I intro her in stilettos, skinny jeans, and a leopard-print blouse. She’s also a nurse practitioner who is never without her medical kit which she keeps in her expensive suede bag, and yep, that medical kit comes in handy in Book #3 when Shandi needs some tending.

In Book #3, Shandi has her own book, but she’s introduced in Book #1 as one of the first people Ava meets when she arrives in town.  She’s popular, sweet as pie, and always wears jeans, tank top, and a ponytail.  Thanks to Tule’s awesome cover artist, my female cover model has a pony tail, and she’s a perfect fit for my Shandi!

There are many more details, of course, that you’ll learn if you read the series.  I don’t want to give everything away, do I?

To buy or Preorder on Amazon, just click the cover image!

Please follow me on Bookbub!  Click HERE.

 

I’d love to gift a winner an ebook copy of A COWBOY AND A PROMISE, Book #1, just by chatting with me today!

Some readers love series.  Others love standalones.  What do you feel are the pros AND the cons of series?

Classic Christmas “Sweeties” Part 3 ~ by Pam Crooks

If you read my blogs the past two months, you’ll notice a definite theme.

Candy.

My little series began in October with “Satisfying that Old-Time Craving for Sweeties” – you can read it here – and focused on candy from the 1800s.

The sweeties moved on to mid-20th century and featured treats we remembered from our youth, and it was great to reminisce with you!  You can read that blog here.

This month, we’re movin’ on up to modern day treats, and what better time of year to talk about candy than at Christmas?

The classic treats, of course, are candy canes, fudge of all varieties, chocolate-wrapped candy, and sugar cookies frosted and decorated. We could mention divinity, peanut brittle, ribbon candy, or peppermint nougats, too.

traditional christmas candy, old fashioned candy

The list is infinite.  But one thing I can say for certain is that no Christmas is complete without ALMOND BARK!

Yep. The basis for so many treats today is incredibly easy to work with. It’s a magical treat that the hard-working housewives of the 1800s had never heard of.  Likely not the ones from the mid-century, either.

Though I have scoured the Internet, I could not find the origin of almond bark anywhere.  But I know it’s been around for decades. The first time I’d ever heard of it was the seventies, I believe.  I remember being at a grocery store and finding almond bark for the first time. I intended to make some amazing peanut clusters that I’d heard about, and one of my classmate’s mother noticed me studying the package for directions and asked me how to use it. We stood in the aisle discussing the marvels of almond bark, and it’s been a staple in my house ever since!

The name almond bark is a bit of an anomaly. It does not contain any nuts, though it is very often used to coat them. It’s more of a confectionary coating rather than real chocolate since it does not contain cocoa butter.  Instead, it contains other fats like cottonseed or palm oil. Almond bark usually is sold in one pound slabs, supposedly to resemble bark.  I don’t really get that part, but whatever, right? It could also be called candy melts, candy wafers, candy coating, or summer coating.

The best news about almond bark? Your microwave does all the work!  No double-boilers or extra ingredients.  It’s so incredibly versatile, I couldn’t possibly tell you all the ways you can use it.

But here are a few ideas:

 

 

I can’t resist adding this one!  Elf Snack Mix from Shanna Hatfield’s COWBOY CHRISTMAS. So good!

AMAZON

Of course, you want the recipe, right?  

ELF SNACK MIX

 

10 cups popped popcorn

1 cup cocktail peanuts

2 cups mini pretzels

1 bag red and green M&Ms

1 package white almond bark (or candy melts)

1/4 cup Christmas sprinkles, optional

 

Combine popcorn, peanuts, pretzels, and M&Ms. Set aside.

 

Melt almond bark/candy melts according to package directions. Pour over popcorn mixture.

 

Stir well to coat. Top with Christmas sprinkles, if desired.

 

Store in an airtight container.

 

So there you go!  Classic Christmas treats made from almond bark that are super easy, extra delicious, and more importantly, microwavable!

What is the one Christmas treat that you make every year without fail?

Do you have a favorite almond bark recipe?

Buy on AMAZON

Mid-20th Century “Sweeties” – Part 2 ~ by Pam Crooks

If you read my post last month, “Satisfying that Old-Time Craving for Sweeties” (you can read it here), you’ll know that I wrote about the different candies that housewives made based on an old cookbook from the 1888.  It was fascinating to learn what satisfied their sweet tooth, the popular flavors at the time, and how they even made their own chewing gum!

This month, we’ll move up into the 20th century, and I suspect many of you will come walking down memory lane with me.  After our country emerged from the Depression and the Second World War, America prospered. Industrialization flourished. With more women working outside the home, families had more expendable income. And treats like the following fast became favorites.

Mid-century, the big super stores hadn’t arrived yet. I’ll bet you had a little mom-and-pop market in your neighborhood. I sure did, and it’s one of my fondest memories.

Only three blocks away from where we lived, a group of us kids would walk down to the “Little Store” with our pennies in hand. The store owner, Mr. Mueller, had the patience of a saint. He’d stand quietly by while we poured over all the different candies he offered, and oh, the choices were such sweet torture! Red licorice was a favorite of mine – one penny each – and no, they weren’t wrapped individually then like they are now.

Are you ready to stroll with me?

BB Bats taffy originated in 1924. Eventually the suckers evolved into Kits. Banana was always my favorite.  What was yours?

 

This was my favorite gum ever!  To this day, black licorice any way I can get it is my salvation.

 

Another favorite from the 1950s. Very similar to a Butterfinger candy bar and coated in coconut.  At one time, a chicken was part of the label, but customers thought it was a chicken-flavored cracker (of all things) so the chicken was removed.

 

Root Beer will always be a favorite for me!  My dad would carry a couple of these in his pocket. What a treat when he surprised me with one!

Of all of these candies, this one was probably my least favorite.  I’m not sure why – it was good, but I guess there was something about that raspberry liquid oozing out that steered me away. But definitely a classic!

These were so fun!  Ice cream cones with marshmallow dusted with sugar crystals. 

A roll of candy with this many pieces always seemed like a bargain to me.  I still see them now and again in specialty stores.

Oh, butterscotch.  Be still my heart!!  Root beer was a close second for me.  Cinnamon, not so much.

It’s a wonder I didn’t pull out a filling with these suckers!  But licking this caramel-flavored candy until it was gone could take hours!  Yet another classic.

Do these “sweeties” bring back memories for you?  Even my husband had fun reminiscing with me!  

What was your favorite candy that you spent your pennies on while growing up? 

Let’s reminiscence, and I’ll send one of you this four pack of Regal Crown candy from 1953!  (Now THIS is what sour cherry candy was meant to be!!)

Comin’ up next month – Classic Christmas Candy in 2020!

Let’s Play a HALLOWEEN Game! ~ Pam Crooks

 

The This ‘n That Game!

 

I’ve played this game with my readers in numerous Facebook parties, and it’s always a hit. The game is limited only by the participants’ responses.  

To allow for more of those responses, let’s include FALL with HALLOWEEN, okay?

Just respond to the comment above you, then add one of your own that’s something Halloween or Fall (opposites are more fun), and you’re off. 

Join in, and you can win a $10 Amazon Gift Card. (Winner announced later tonight.)

Join in as often as you’d like!  

Examples:

Spooky or Cute   

or   

Spring or Fall

 

Have Fun!

Satisfying That Old-Time Craving for “Sweeties” – Part 1 by Pam Crooks

Years ago, my mother gave me a cookbook reprinted from 1888 that offered all kinds of advice and recipes for the homemaker. One section was devoted to Confectionaries, and I found their selection of candies, sodas, and ice cream fascinating.  Who knew they had so many? And yep, they called them “sweeties.”

Given that I have had a sweet tooth since the time I was old enough to hold a lollipop, I’d love to share with you my trip through history in both the 19th and 20th centuries in the next few blogs. 

The author of my cookbook mentions the fortune made by a Mr. Pease in New York with his horehound candy.  Ditto with a Mr. H. N. Wild’s candy store on Broadway which must have been a super store at the time, given the description of great numbers of customers (mainly ladies and children) who shopped there at all hours.

But my focus is for the common housewife who made “sweeties” for her family.  She was encouraged to use the best refined sugars that left behind no sediment and that had a bright color, such as sugar from the West Indies or Louisiana.  She was also encouraged to buy coloring materials and flavoring extracts rather than try to make them herself since educated chemists at the time had perfected them for consistency as well as reasonable price.

After a listing of tools needed, the recipes followed for Butterscotch and Everton taffy. Peanut and black walnut candy were different than what I imagined – no chocolate but covered with a sugar syrup then cut into strips.  The Cocoanut and Chocolate Cream candies sounded pretty good, as did the Fig and Raisin Candy, where figs and raisins were laid out in a pan and covered with sugar syrup, cooked slowly over a fire.

Rock candy in various flavors and Ginger candy was pretty self-explanatory. I must admit to being confused on what “paste drops” were. Made with currants, raspberries, pears, apples, and pineapple, I can only imagine them being similar to our Fruit Roll-Ups.

Candy “Tablets” followed. Again, it took some imagining, but since the sugar was boiled, flavored, and poured into molds, I’m thinking the tablets were like our hard candies. Flavors were ginger, orange, vanilla, clove, rose, and fruits like currants, strawberries, cherries, and raspberries, cooked and pressed through a sieve for their juice.

Housewives made their own chewing gum with balsam of tulu, sugar and oatmeal, soaked, mixed, and rolled in powdered sugar, then shaped into sticks.

Caramels were a favorite and poured into 1 inch molds. Caramels came in intriguing flavors like lemon, orange and lime, coffee, chocolate, and orange cream and vanilla. Yum!

Popcorn balls were made with molasses. I bet they were pretty good, too!

Soda Water and Soda ‘Sirups’ were popular, and while it wasn’t impossible to make one’s own for their families, the process was much easier while living near a big city for obvious reasons.  Flavors, however, were quite numerous and ranged from Nectar, Sarsaparilla, Walnut, Wild Cherry, Crabapple, and Lemon, to name a few.

Confectioners in the city generally offered “Ice Cream Saloons” to their stores. Adding a saloon was inexpensive and very profitable.  The cookbook provided a recipe that made a large quantity. However, other than the traditional flavor of vanilla, only Coffee or Chocolate flavor appeared to be available.

Well, there you have it.  A glimpse into an 1800’s homemaker’s candy kitchen!

Do you have a sweet tooth? 

Do you enjoy making candy or ice cream?

What is your favorite?