Saddle Up and Read! by Pam Crooks

Caitlin Gooch is no ordinary cowgirl.

Oh, sure.  She grew up on her father’s sprawling ranch.  She’s been riding horses since she was three years old.  She competes in relay race competitions.  She’s a mom, too.  Wife to a husband in the military.  And she homeschools her three children.

Not so unusual for a cowgirl, right?  But besides being a skilled horsewoman, Caitlin is an avid reader, and she grew concerned about the low literacy rate amongst Black children in her home state of North Carolina. So concerned she knew she had to do something about it.

She approached her local library and partnered with them to encourage young children to read.  The plan was that for every child who read three or more books a month, they could sign up to be entered into a drawing to visit Caitlin’s father’s horse farm.  There, the children were encouraged to read to the horses, and how cool is that?  Studies show that the animals are patient, non-judgmental, and most importantly, improve reading skills.

The plan took off, but it wasn’t long before Caitlin hit a roadblock.  Transportation to her father’s horse farm was challenging for the children and kept some of them from the coveted visit and reading sessions.

Undeterred, Caitlin decided to take her horses to the children.  Armed with donated books, she loaded up the horses and drove to elementary schools, child care centers, libraries, church youth groups, and other community events across North Carolina.

Closing the gap for illiterate children has become her passion, a goal she works on every day. She’s received praise and mentions from such super-stars as Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Clarkson and Brad Paisley.  She’s been featured in Vogue, CNN, and numerous major publications.  She’s written a coloring book illustrated and relatable to Black children, too.

While the pandemic kept her from visiting the children on her literacy quest, she used the time to concentrate on fundraising with a GoFundMe campaign to help her buy land to build an equestrian center and library.  Caitlin says “I believe building this space for them to be exposed to horses and providing books with characters who look like them will help push Saddle Up and Read to raise literacy rates in North Carolina.”

Nope. Not ordinary at all.  In fact, Caitlin is pretty darned amazing.

Buy BLACK EQUESTRIAN on Amazon

To learn more about Caitlin and her work for literacy – https://www.saddleupandread.org/

Who do you admire that has made a difference in someone’s life, either through history or modern day?

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Baby Booties for Craft Day! with Pam Crooks

Back in March, I introduced our plans to fill up extra days here at P&P with fun ideas and stories.  I kicked off our Free Days with a knitted washcloth pattern, which you can see again HERE.

As I explained then, I am a very basic knitter.  I would love to take some knitting classes for more advanced projects, but Covid has delayed classes until the fall.  I’d made a gazillion washcloths over the years, but baby booties are a first for me.

I was inspired to make booties through the Mary Madeline Project, an endeavor here in Omaha that benefits preemie and stillborn babies.  The Mary Madeline Project is the brainchild of a grandmother who endured the heart-wrenching loss of a baby granddaughter named Maddie who was born prematurely and hung on to life for seven agonizing weeks with the help of a ventilator.  But eventually brain-dead, the tiny baby girl was removed from life-support.  Amazingly, she lived long enough for the grieving parents to take her home and spend a few precious hours with her.

In the meantime, the baby’s grandmother shopped for a burial gown only to discover there were none small enough, and the happy atmosphere of a department store chock-full of adorable outfits was a bit depressing.  She came up with the idea to provide booties, hats, gowns and blankets for grieving parents, all made by loving volunteers, and all accessible and given away by the hospital.  No department store shopping needed.  Dressing their precious angel in a beautiful outfit for pictures and memories has been incredibly comforting for grieving parents.

You can read more about the Mary Madeline Project at http://www.marymadelineproject.org/

I’m sharing with you today a pattern for baby booties.  While they are intended for preemies or stillborn babies, the pattern can be adjusted for full-term babies.  They are so simple to make, even I had no trouble. I can finish one in about 45 minutes.

 

 

Baby Booties

Use worsted weight yarn, and size 8 Needles.  Make two.

  • Cast on 26 stitches
  • Knit 10 rows.
  • Bind off 10 stitches at the beginning of the next row.
  • Finish row.
  • Bind off 10 stitches at the beginning of the next row.  This will leave you with six stitches in the middle – five stitches on one needle, and one on the other.
  • Knit the remaining stitches for 20 rows.
  • Bind off.
  • Using a yarn needle, sew the bootie together at the toe and the sides.  Turn inside out.  Embellish if you prefer.

Note:  Footbed is 2 3/4 inches long.

 

Do you volunteer for a cause that is near and dear to your heart? 

One of you could win a pair of little booties or a knitted washcloth.  Your choice!

 

A Kitchen for Summer by Pam Crooks

Most of us would find it hard to fathom having two kitchens in our homes.  But many old ranch and farm houses did indeed have two, and any farm or ranch wife would tell you she couldn’t get through her summer canning, pickling, and baking without one.

Hoosier 2
Vintage Hoosier

Often built at the back or side of the house, its purpose was strictly utilitarian.  The main kitchen would likely be the gathering place for the family and had cabinets like any of us could imagine–holding plates, bowls, groceries, etc.  The main kitchen would have a stove, ice box or refrigerator, etc., as well as the family’s dinner table.

The old farm houses from years ago would not have had air conditioning, and so the summer kitchen was intended to keep the heat from bulk food preparation away from the main part of the house.  The summer kitchen would likely have had a ‘mother’s helper’ or more commonly known as a “Hoosier.”  The Hoosier held shelves and drawers and crannies for cookbooks.  The shelves contained bowls, utensils, measuring cups and spoons, spices, flour, sugar, and the like.  Everything a housewife would need to prepare and preserve food for her family.

The summer kitchen would have a stove, likely a sink, and a table or counter top.  They usually had two doors, some more, to open and let fresh air in.  Windows were a must so they could be opened for the same reason.  And oh, the smells that would drift into the yard and down the lane!

Although my Italian grandmother lived in the city, she had a summer kitchen in her old house. She called it simply ‘the back porch’, but it’s purpose was the same. The room was located in the back of the house, beyond the main kitchen (as small as a postage stamp!) and down a short hall.  I remember as a little girl going out there, my memories vivid of the cracked linoleum floor, the pale green walls, and bright, ceiling-high windows.  How my grandmother managed to wash them, I can’t imagine.  She didn’t have a Hoosier, but instead this green metal cabinet which I was fortunate to have as my own now.  (Alas, we keep it in the garage for garage stuff now, but I think of my grandmother every time I walk by.)

In addition to the metal cabinet, she had a nice-sized refrigerator.  Once, I opened it and discovered a package of octopus from the meat market, which totally grossed me out.  She would have boiled the octopus, sliced it, and served it as a salad with olives, oil, lemon juice, and celery and onions. Or she would have simply simmered the boiled octopus in sauce.  Regardless what she did with it, she knew better than to serve it to us kids.  We would have refused to eat it!

Next to the refrigerator was an upright freezer where she kept breaded zucchini blossoms (they are to die for!), homemade bread crumbs, sausage, and Italian bread.  But the main star of the back porch was a big gas stove where she did her canning and prepped foods for freezing.  Over those burners, she roasted hundreds (thousands?) of red peppers, then put them into bags for steaming before peeling and seeding.  I tell you, I bet those walls still hold those smoky, mouth-watering aromas to this day.

Alas, she didn’t have sink, which had to have been inconvenient, but at least the porch was close to her garden–just down a few stairs and a left hand turn outside.  Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and onions grew in abundance, all in preparation for their time in the summer kitchen. Mama mia!

 

 

I think if I was a ranch wife, my summer kitchen would be my favorite room in the house – even in winter!

What is your favorite room in your house?  Where do you hang out the most?

More than 1.5 million page reads on Kindle Unlimited!!

Trace McQuade has lost everything–his ranch, his brother, the woman he wanted to marry. When his quest for justice fails, he leaves Texas to head north, but he never expects an outlaw’s baby along the way.

Morgana Goldwater needs to be needed. After she endured a terrible tragedy, she lives in a narrow, protected world. When Trace needs help caring for the baby girl, she is quick to take them both into her heart and into her life.

But their troubles return, and Trace and Morgana must face their past to keep loving the little girl–and each other–in their future.

Sweet Romance.  Book #1 Bachelors & Babies Series

#kindleunlimited

Amazon

Today’s Winner!

  Natalie Bright’s

and

Denise F. McAllister’s

 

IS

 

Denise!

 

Yep!  Two ‘Denise’s’ but one winner!  Denise, watch for your copy of 

 

 

to arrive to you soon!

 

(Winner chosen by random.org)

Pam’s Winner!

 

 . . . is Julie Butler!

 

Thanks to all who joined me for National Apple Pie Day – cowboy style!

 

Julie, I’ll contact you for your ebook copy of UNTAMED COWBOY!

 

http://amzn.to/2TPWiJg

(Winner chosen by random.org)

A Cowboy is an Appetite Ridin’ a Horse – by Pam Crooks

Almost all of my western romances revolve around cattle or cattle drives, one way or another.  Having grown up in western Nebraska, cattle were everywhere, a common sight along the interstate or highway.  Roll down the car window and get a whiff?  Ah, we used to say.  Smell that money.

But cattle need cowboys.  And cowboys need to be fed.  On cattle drives, the chuckwagon cook spent his days feeding an outfit of fifteen or twenty hungry men.  His wagon became their home away from home, a place to gather in the middle of nowhere.  It was here a man could get warm by a fire, swap a tall tale or two, and fill his belly before hitting his bedroll for a short night’s sleep.

He’d wake again to the smell of strong coffee. His meals were three squares of beef, sourdough biscuits and coffee.  Maybe a dessert of raisin pudding, a popular standby.  Or dried apples.

Cowboys loved sourdough and so did the cook. He started the sourdough before leaving the ranch, mixing flour, salt and warm water in a crock twice as big as the mixture.  He added a little sugar or molasses to help it ferment, and voila!  Sourdough starter. Cared for right, (warmed in the sun to aid fermentation and replaced what he used with more flour, salt and water) a cook could keep sourdough going for eternity.

Pretty amazing if you think about it.  Versatile, too.


Since today is National Apple Pie Day, how about a cowboy’s version of apple pie on the range? I’m happy to share an authentic chuckwagon cook’s recipe for Dried Apple Cakes.

  • 3 cups dried apples, chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • –Dry Baking Mix as follows–
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tb. Sugar
  • 1 Tb. Baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup lard or shortening
  • Sift or mix dry ingredients.  Cut in lard or shortening until mixture resembles fine meal.
  • 1 1/2 cups Sourdough Starter (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup butter

Cook dried apples in the water until tender.  Drain and save the juice.

Measure 2 cups juice, adding water if needed.

Mix 1/4 cup sugar with the above recipe of Dry Baking Mix.

Stir in Sourdough Starter to moisten flour.  Turn onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Pat or roll to a 12 x 18 inch rectangle.

Sprinkle with apples.  Roll, starting at short end.  Cut into 12 slices. Put remaining sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter and the 2 cups apple liquid into a large deep skillet.

Bring to a boil.  Gently lower slices of apple-sprinkled dough into hot syrup.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 – 40 minutes.  Makes 12 servings.

Sourdough Starter

  • 1 quart lukewarm water
  • 1 pkg dry yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose four

Put water in large crock. Add yeast, sugar and flour. Cover with a clean cloth. Let rise until mixture is light and slightly aged, about 2 days. As you use the sourdough, replace it with equal amounts of flour and water.


What is your favorite apple recipe?  Have you ever worked with sourdough before?

Tell me if you love (or hate!) apples and you can win an e-book copy of UNTAMED COWBOY, Book 1 of my C Bar C Ranch series.

http://amzn.to/2TPWiJg

Carina Lockett is driven to build a legacy for her young daughter, and she doesn’t need a man to help her do it.  But when her precious child is lured away and held for ransom, she must swallow her pride and ask for Penn McClure’s help.

Penn McClure has no intention of playing cowboy for any woman, especially one as strong-willed as Carina.  But driving a herd of cattle to Dodge City is no easy task.  And he has a score to settle with the man waiting for them at the end of the trail.

Along the way, he discovers Carina is pure female–and that her legacy has become his own.

BUY on Amazon

 

 

Healing Machines. Work of an Eccentric? Or a Genius? By Pam Crooks

I recently read a fascinating story about an artist that once lived not far from me in the sandhills of Nebraska.  Emery Blagdon was born in 1907, the oldest of six children, and a farmer’s son.  He ended his education at a country school to work on the farm, but at age 18, he left home to drift around the country for ten years, riding the rails for adventure.

Once he returned home, however, he stayed home, surrounded by family. He never married, never had children.  He rarely bathed and wore his hair long, unusual for a man at the time, and donned baggy clothes that often needed laundering.  He chopped wood every day for heat, drew his water from a well, and grew all his own food.  Always a loner, his niece remembers him as being very kind, very gentle and quiet.  When his uncle died, leaving him the family’s 160-acre farm, Emery didn’t work the land but instead leased it, which provided him a modest income and allowed him to do what he loved best.

On the farm was a 800-square-foot shed that Emery devoted the next thirty years to making what he called “my pretties.”  He created metal sculptures using only what others called junk and a pair of pliers. Yet each creation, never measured, was symmetrical.  After the deaths of his parents, brother and sister from cancer, he hoped to heal people with the energy from his art.

Some called him crazy.  While the farm deteriorated from neglect, as did his personal appearance, neighbors couldn’t help but have reservations about him.  Yet inside the shed, which was practically falling apart around him, beams of light touched on bits of foil, wire, colorful beads, and ribbon.  Strings of blinking Christmas bulbs wound around the room.  Visitors report being light-headed, feeling overwhelmed, even out-of-breath.

Emery possessed books on science and physics yet depended on the elements for his energy fields, using ionic salts purchased from a pharmacy in North Platte, NE.  He befriended the pharmacist, and they became lifelong  friends.

Unfortunately, Emery succumbed to the cancer that took family members before him, and just as it seemed the healing machines he’d created to protect himself and others from illness would be dispersed and lost through an estate auction, his pharmacist friend bought the entire lot, including the shed, to preserve Emery’s works.

Over the course of several decades, Emery’s 600 ornate wire sculptures and 80 geometric paintings traveled the country and were eventually displayed in a New York gallery.  Pieces sold from $2,500 to $25,000. The remaining works, including the shed, was acquired by a foundation and donated to an art center in Wisconsin where they all remain today.

As far as the healing machines?  Did they really heal?  Well, they were indeed found to emit measurable electrical energy, but perhaps it was only the sheer rush of unexpected beauty that ripples through one’s body, giving him or her a dazzling hum of appreciation for Emery Blagdon’s passion.

Do learn more about Emery, you can watch a fascinating documentary about him:  http://netnebraska.org/interactive-multimedia/television/emery-blagdon-and-his-healing-machine

Have you ever known anyone who was a little odd? Crazy? Eccentric?

I can name several, but my favorite has to be the matronly elderly woman we all called the “Chicken Lady” in my hometown of North Platte.  I remember her still in her baggy coat and walking cane.  She truly seemed to love children and, eyes twinkling, always greeted them with loud squawks of “Bawk, bawk-bawk-bawk-BAWWKKK.”

I don’t recall ever hearing her talk normally to anyone, be it children or adults. Surely she knew words.  I don’t know – shrug – but I never knew if I should laugh or feel sorry for her.  One thing is certain, though.  I’ve never forgotten her!

Pam’s Craft Winners!

Thanks to all for joining me today!

 

My winners are:

 

Sherry Masters

Patty Fontenot Duplechin

 

Watch for my message so I can send your hand-knitted washcloth right out to you!

(Winners chosen by random.org)