Tanya Hanson: Confessions of a MOBster*

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*Mother of the Bride…seventeen days til my daughter’s wedding. 

christi-and-her-glam-glovesSince I can’t find anywhere that 17 is an unlucky number, I reckon I can regale you with wedding stuff again while I still have my nerves and my mind left. Most of my mind, that is.  And I need a chance to showcase the hit of my daughter’s recent bridal shower, the “glam gloves” sent by my filly friend Pam Crooks along with a signed copy of her latest book. I can still hear the shouts of delight bursting from the throats of sorority sisters, aunties and cousins…and even myself. You can see why! Those gloves are the cutest things ever! 

 Now for all you historians and romantics out there, here are a few more bridal tidbits to file.  

Bridal Shower.  This girly gathering owes its roots to a Dutch maiden three hundred years ago whose wealthy papa pooh-poohed her marital choice of a lowly miller. His refusal of a dowry had her friends and neighbors “shower” her with enough household goods to start life with her true love.my-bridal-shower-july-1974

 

In the 1890’s, gifts for the bride were actually placed into a Japanese parasol which was later opened over her head. Hopefully there wasn’t a cast iron frying pan or meat cleaver knife in there.

 (This pic is my friends and me, lower right, at my July 1974 shower. Talk about a vintage photograph!)   

Bridesmaids. They got their start during the bride-stealing days of the Anglo-Saxons. The gaggle of lovelies usually dressed identical to the bride even to their veils to confuse marauders and act as decoys. Later, the flock of bridesmaids was believed to ward off evil spirits who might curse the happy couple. In Greece, rather than “maidens,” tradition had brides escorted by happily-married, fertile young women whose good fortune was supposed to rub off.  

 In the good ole days of bride-stealing and kidnapping, the groom of course had to surround himself with pals ready to assist in abducting his woman. Sometimes the “groomsmen” snatched brides of their own from the herd of bridesmaids. Romantic? Can’t decide if there’s a historical romance plot in there somewhere. WDYT?

27 Dresses. Just kidding. Christi only had six to alter after the somewhat dowdy hemline caused quite a stir of frenzy recently. Fortunately my amazing sister-in-law Roberta (Christi’s aunt and godmother) successfully converted the hems bubble-style. Christi has selected yellow to acknowledge our family’s devotion to Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong crusade against cancer, and as a tribute to her dad who beat testicular cancer last year. Walking her down the aisle is going to be particularly poignant.balloon-hem

 (This is Danielle, one of the bridesmaids. Her December 2008 wedding was postponed when a California wildfire burned down her family home last fall! Favors, invitations, everything but her dress was lost. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the house is being rebuilt. But…insurance delays and her dad’s recent health scare put things on hold until early 2010.  Fortunately, her dad found out he’s going to be okay. Praise God again!)

Something old, Something new. Something borrowed, something blue. Actually, most of us recite this without the last line.     …and a silver sixpence in her shoe. 

This tradition started up in Victorian times. The bride who wore/carried these good luck tokens could expect a happy marriage.

The sixpence, a silver coin minted in Britain from 1551-1967, symbolizes the hope for financial security. For optimum good fortune, it should be worn in the left shoe. With the sixpence out of production, a copper penny is okay to use…although keepsake sixpence can be found online. Fortunately, I brought a sixpence home from a college trip to England in 1972 and wore it in my wedding shoe thirty-five Augusts ago. I will pass on my lucky sixpence and its good fortune to my daughter! 

Something old symbolizes the bride’s family roots and past history. 

Something new is for hope and optimism for a happy future and her own history. 

Something borrowed is usually an item from a happily married friend or relative. It  reminds the bride that she has loved ones to depend on. 

 

Blue has been connected to weddings for centuries. Brides in ancient Rome wore the color to symbolize love, modesty, and fidelity, and Christians long associated the color with purity, as it is the standard garb for the Virgin Mary. Blue actually was a popular wedding gown color through the 1700’s.  “Marry in blue, lover be true.” 

Young Brides, Old Wives Tales.   

    1. If you find a spider on your wedding gown, you’ll come into money. 

    2. If you see a flock of birds, your marriage will be blessed with fertility. 

     3. If it snows on your wedding day, you’ll be wealthy.

     4. If the sun is out, you’ll be happy.

     5. If you marry as the hands of the clock move up (after the half hour), you’ll have good fortune.

 

    6. If you drop the ring during the ceremony, it’s best to start the whole thing over. 

    7. If you look in the mirror before walking down the aisle, you’ll leave a part of yourself behind. 

    8.  If you cry on your wedding day, especially before the kiss, you’ll prevent tears during the marriage. 

Well, as I leave you with these pearls of wisdom, I can positively say no snow will fall on Christi’s wedding day, but I can predict the location near the beach fill have plenty of sun. 

Somebody might drop the ring, but I doubt the coordinator will let us start the whole caboodle over.

Christi will most definitely be looking in a mirror! 

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The wedding starts at 4:30…so I’m on board for the hands of the clock moving up, even if you wear a digital watch. (This antique clock was a wedding gift to my grandparents in 1917.)   

 Birds and spiders, okay. I’m a bit of a tree hugger. Just don’t poop on her dress.

  As for tears, I think they’re a given. I’ve already got handy an Irish linen hankie, a souvenir from my mom’s many travels. 

Please pass along today any pearls of wisdom, lore or old wives’ tales of your own, your hints and helps, past MOB memories, or anything you think I might start needing…on day 16.

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Tanya Hanson: Thank you, Chief P’tauk-seet-tough

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“Tuxes don’t come in a size two,” the shop attendant said after observing the two-and-a half-year old ring-bearer. “But we can alter a size three.” He smiled at my little grandson. “We need to measure you. Can you fly?”

 

Instantly Carter’s little arms made wings, his hands full of the Matchbox cars he never leaves home without. After the attendant measured his chest, he yelled confidently in his baby way, “Again. Again.”

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 The male-bonding occasion of father, son and grandson getting fitted for my daughter Christi’s wedding went swimmingly, with me along as historian to record the event. If you know the Steve Martin version of Father of the Bride, you’ll understand why my son and husband joked about not finding navy blue Armanis as they examined racks of suits.

 

     Although the bride hoped her ring bearer would wear tiny Chuck Taylor sneakers with his tux (his daddy wore Chucks at his wedding five years ago), I don’t think Chucks stand a chance. When Carter tried on his tuxedo shoes, he said rapturously, “Oh, my shiny shoes,” and after they were off,  held them tight against his little chest.  

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     Well, whatever he wears on his feet, he’ll be adorable. But the whole excursion reminded me that I knew nothing about tuxedos.  Why does the tuxedo look the way it does? Who designed it? And most of all, just where does the name “tuxedo” come from?

 

    We owe the name to the Algonquin sachems, or chiefs, who in the 17th Century ruled vast areas of land in what is today the northeastern United States. Often they named regions after themselves. One region, 40 miles northwest of New York City, was named for Chief P’tauk-seet-tough, and meant “home of the bear.”

 

     carlsbad-june-fitting-tuxedos-tim-minda-danielles-dress-001In 1852, the land came into the possession of the Lorillards, a wealthy New York City tobacconist family. Thirty years later, Pierre Lorillard IV made the 13,000 acres of lush wooded wilderness into an exclusive hunting resort. Keeping the phonetics of the original name, the “Tuxedo” Club was formed for the wealthy social elite who sported there.

 

     Tuxedo Club member James Brown Potter traveled to London in 1885 and befriended the Prince of Wales. Foregoing standard eveningwear at a formal dinner, the Prince appeared in a tail-less “dinner jacket” lined in satin, essentially a version of the English riding/hunting jacket. Potter was smitten with the style and had his own made at Savile Row by the prince’s own tailor.   tuxedo-1

 

     At first ridiculed back home, Potter’s new duds quickly became the trend among Tuxedo Club members, and the name “tuxedo” began to stick. However, no one dared ignore traditional coattails at the Tuxedo Club’s first annual Autumn Ball in October 1886. 

 

      Even Potter left his beloved tux at home. However, Griswold Lorillard—grandson of Pierre IV—brought a group of friends to the ball, all mockingly dressed in standard evening jackets whose tails they’d slashed off, and scarlet lapels and waistcoats. Red was an unheard-of color for the upper crust.

 

      When criticized that they appeared ready for a fox hunt, Griswold retorted, “Yes, we are indeed hunting foxes,” and turned on his heel to hang out with a lovely young lady. Nonetheless, the young men so charmed the guests their style soon became the rage, rather than a fashion scandal. The waistcoats were the harbinger of today’s stylish vests.  After that ground-breaking Autumn Ball, the “tuxedo” and its variations segued into the elegant garment worn ever after by men, rich and poor, at formal occasions and celebrations.                                                                         

 

     In 1920, the Prince of Wales, the future Duke of Windsor, was the first man to wear a navy blue tuxedo, beating Steve Martin by seventy years! We fillies even have our own tuxedo mascot…Charlene Sands’ adorable Skittles!                                      

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     Share some tuxedo stories today! Your senior prom? A family member’s wedding, or your own? Tails?  Cummerbund? Vest and matching tie?  My brother-in-law wore an all-white tux at his wedding. A friend’s brother got married twenty years ago in one of lime green. Horrors! Come on!  Surely somebody can top that!   handsome-carter

 

               

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Tanya Hanson: A Whiff of Wedding Flower History

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Well, I’ve definitely got weddings on the brain these days, with our daughter Christi getting married soon, Pam Crook’s Kristi a brand-newlywed, Charlene Sands’ son recently engaged…and a mail-order bride book just released! In Marrying Minda, the heroine-bride’s favorite flower is the white rose, and her bridegroom ordered special the big bouquet of them she ended up tossing on his grave. So I figured bouquets and wedding flowers could use a bit of looking into.  

 

In The Little Big Book of Brides, I learned that a Victorian-era suitor used “the hidden language of flowers” to woo his intended. He might send peach blossoms to let her know “You are perfected loveliness” only to have her send him a posy of burdock ordering him to “Touch me not.” Burdock, pictured here, is a wild plant found in waste places and seldom worth cultivating.  

 

Hopefully, the lovely lady would send him ambrosia, signifying “love returned” if she received a bouquet of ranunculas, which told her “You are radiant with charm.” He might “think of her” if she sent back pansies…but daffodils meant, sadly, unrequited love.

 

Down the road a few months, her eventual bridal bouquet also held symbolism. Ivy stood for faithfulness and strength, since the vine is hard to uproot. Rosemary spoke of remembrance, the rose for love. Myrtle embodied love, peace and happiness. In fact, a bridesmaid was encouraged to plant a sprig of myrtle in front of the newly married couple’s first home. She’d marry within the year if it took root. 

 

The lovely hydrangea marked devotion, the clover, faithfulness, and the marigold, sensual passion. Thyme brought courage, the gardenia, joy; orchids, beauty and passion. Phlox insured united hearts, and the classic lily of the valley signified purity. Only available for a few weeks in May, this classic is definitely a luxury!   

 

In our case, the bride is selecting her flowers based on color (yellow, for Livestrong), but I think I can convince her to stick some rosemary in somewhere. It’s my favorite herb.

 

When Queen Victoria married her prince in 1840, she selected a wreath of orange blossoms, not the jeweled tiara expected of a royal bride, and the trend spread. When real orange blossoms were in short supply, wax replicas were made, and used over and over by other brides. The orange blossom symbolizes happiness, fertility and everlasting luck, and took its importance from Greek myth when  Hera received a garland of them to bless her marriage to Zeus. This “first” bridal flower made its way to Europe via the Crusaders.

A bridal bouquet tied with ribbons and knots symbolized the “tying the knot” tradition that likely stems from the handfasting ceremony of medieval Celtic couples. Their hands were bound together while they pledged their fidelity. But a bride’s handful of flowers has been a centerpiece of weddings for centuries.

 

In Britain’s early days, a bride was supposedly such a powerful source of good luck the guests took to tearing off her flowers, ribbons, even bits of her garments. So eventually, brides simply tossed their bouquets to protect themselves…hence starting a long-standing tradition. While long ago bridal bouquets definitely signified the sweetness of marriage, they were also thought to hold off sickness and, if built of herbs or grains, to protect against evil spirits.

Throughout time and cultures, bridal bouquets have ranged from humble clumps of wildflowers to pomanders, tight balls of herbs and flowers hung by a ribbon, to tussie-mussies, small arrangements of blooms and herbs chosen for their hidden language. Today’s bridal flowers range from elaborate cascades of blooms that tumble from the hands like a waterfall  to nosegays, round clusters held by a handle, to an artful curved arrangement cradled in one arm. Stems wrapped in ribbon are one of today’s loveliest trends.

 

Certainly a wedding wouldn’t be complete without flowers.  I made bouquets of straw flowers for my bridesmaids, thinking they’d last forever. (They did not.)Those of you who have been or will be brides, what flowers decorate(d) your big day? As a wedding guest, what are the loveliest flower arrangements you remember?

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 Click on cover to order a copy.

And the mail-order bride winner is….

marryingminda_w2706_300Hello, Anita Yancey! I’m glad you like mail-order bride stories…because there’s a copy of Marrying Minda rarin’ to be on its way to you. My darlin’ husband drew your name from all the wonderful folks who wished me well today!  Thanks to all the fillies and our many fabulous friends.  Anita, e-mail me at tanhanson@aol.com so I can get the book off to you.

 

I hope you enjoy it.

Marrying Minda…and a Real Nebraska Wedding

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Well, I’m both rambunctious and skeered this week. Marrying Minda is set for release. If you like mail-order bride stories (and even if you don’t J) I hope you’ll give it a whirl.  The story did well in contests and therefore got some good remarks from judges, but my favorite comment came from a judge who wrote, I’m familiar with Nebraska. I can tell your setting is somewhere near Platte Center. 

 

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Yowza! Minda comes all the way to Nebraska and marries the wrong guy (a gorgeous cowboy) in a little town I named Paradise and loosely based on what I reckon Platte Center might have been like way back when. Established by German and Irish homesteaders, Platte Center today is a pretty village of 400 or so in the metropolitan Columbus area.

 

The question is: Why Platte Center? Ya’ll may have picked up on the fact that I’m a Californian born and bred. Well, the love affair started when I was seventeen. In the pages of a college catalog. There it was, a classic New England-style campus in a town of cobbled streets and stately courthouse, with Nebraska farmland rolling around the edges and Plum Creek burbling nearby. Oh, it was my destiny to be one of those coeds in a plaid mini skirt, penny loafers crunching fallen autumn leaves on my way to a football game. weller-hall

 “No,”  my dad without hesitation, not even looking at the catalog. “Too far. I’d worry too much.”

 Never say never. After a semester at the community college during which I wheedled and whined about how I was Mature Enough to go away to school, I finally wore him down. On a balmy Los Angeles morning in January, he put me on a plane to Nebraska (my first flight) and three hours later, I landed on what might well have been a different planet. ommh-winter-trees

 

No jetway to debark the plane. Sub zero blasts of frigid air. Wind chill. (What the heck is wind chill? Hmmmmmm. Sub zero blasts of frigid air.)  Sure, I wore a scarf and gloves and a new winter coat, but California-level wool didn’t stand a chance. Within two days, every square inch of my skin was chapped; I cost Mom and Daddy a fortune in collect calls that first week. There was no such thing as free minutes back then. Homesickness broke my heart. You were right, Daddy. Sob. 

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But…then I saw snow fall for the first time. Slid on my backside the entire way down the ice-slicked porch steps of my dorm.  Survived a blizzard. (Although I was reminded once again how much wind chill sucks.)  Got a Valentine from a secret admirer. Visited my roommate’s farm and devoured some hearty down-home meals. And in spring, watched baby lambs carouse around a pasture all the while lilacs exploded all over town. I was hooked. I was a cornhusker. 

 

So where else to set a Western historical romance but Nebraska?

 

Indeed much of it has to do with godson Nathan, my kids’ close friend. Just as California born and bred as I am, he spent every summer since age two on his grandparents’ farm in P.C. And after getting his degree in agriculture a few years ago at a California university, he put down his own roots in the ancestral stomping grounds.   

nebraska-wedding-church1Soon he fell in love with a local P.C. girl. That meant a wedding. I was invited. I went. Back to Nebraska. And once again, I was hooked.  For five more days of my life, I got to be a cornhusker again. Oh goodness. I rode a tractor and admired cornfields. Saw an hours-old calf. Explored historic cemeteries.                                            

tanya-cornfirldAnd loved every minute of it.

 

Back home, Nate’s love story still lived in my head. When it came time to pick a setting for Minda and her cowboy, I knew I’d found the Mother Lode. Perhaps I should say bumper crop.  Tractor

 

Well, we all know Minda and her cowboy have a happy ending. How about that Platte Center bride and groom?

 

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 Doing great! Nate farms for a large agribusiness, and they’ve set up house in the historic farmhouse built by his great-great-grandparents on the five acres left from a section of farmland. I suggested to Nate he use those five acres for an animal sanctuary and boutique crops such as blackberries and herbs. He just shook his head and said, This is Nebraska, Tanya. Not California.ommh-alternate-view-no-snow

 

Oh, his junction’s got some fillies, too. A real new baby filly, and two little girls all his own.

 

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Nate and his family plan on coming to California for our daughter’s wedding in August. That’s…hmmm 1500 miles. Same distance I traveled to his. Now today’s big question. How far have YOU ever traveled for a wedding?

 

P.s. I’ll be drawing a name today from all who post for a copy of Marrying Minda. 

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P.p.s. I for one could seriously ride off into a sunset like this one! 

 

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Hang ’em High

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 I was thrilled recently to learn that my entry, Outlaw Bride, has finaled in the Romance Through the Ages Contest sponsored by RWA’s special interest chapter, Hearts Through History. This work-in-progress features a horse-hang-tree-barethievin’ heroine who manages to escape getting strung up on a tree outside an Arizona town. This second chance at life finds her mending her evil ways…and falling for a handsome Cavalry scout turned rancher.  All the while she’s outrunning her big bad outlaw brother and the bounty on her head. ..disguised as a nun.

Well, she’s itsy bitsy, so the hangin’ tree didn’t have to be very big…but most hanging trees, real or legendary, had to be sturdy with dramatic, stretched-out branches.  In California, oaks and sycamores were the trees of choice although juniper came in handy, too. Or should I say, necky? Many trees have been lost to age, disease, or development, but some remain, like the hanging tree in Holcomb Valley in the San Bernardino Mountains.  (shown below) 

The valley was the richest gold field in Southern California, a good dozen years after the Forty Niners up north. While miners and prospectors worked hard and honest to find their lucky strikes,  claim jumpers, gamblers, and outlaws such as Button’s Gang all the way from Salt Lake City, Utah, made harsh frontier justice necessary. In the first two years after gold was discovered in 1861, some 40, possibly 50 murders demanded a strong message of law and order.

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Records claim that this lovely juniper in Holcomb Valley witnessed as many as four  hangings at a single time. When the hanged criminal was cut down, so was the branch from which he hung.

Down the mountain, in the canyon below a tollway in Orange County’s  master-planned community of Irvine, bad guys were hanged long ago from a stand of seven sycamores. A plaque reads, “Under this tree, General Andres Pico Hung Two Banditos from the Flores Gang in 1857.”

General Pico, the brother of California’s last Mexican governor, led the posse that captured and hanged at that spot Francisco Ardillero and Juan Catabo of the treacherous Juan Flores Gang. The gang had massacred a Los Angeles County sheriff and three other lawmen during a reign of terror that blazed for a hundred miles. 

Juan Flores himself was strung up in downtown Los Angeles while thousands of spectators watched, but the humbler Ardillero and Catabo were soon forgotten.

They might be nameless even today if the monument shown below hadn’t been erected forty years ago by an equestrian club. Today these sycamores symbolize life. Docents will lead hikes to O.C.’s Hangman’s Tree later in the summer only after a pair of nesting hawks have raised their young.  

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 Up north, about an hour west of Lake Tahoe, Placerville, California still lays hangman-tavern-placervilleproud claim to its original moniker, Hangtown. All along historic Main Street, establishments display such names as Chuck’s Hangtown Bakery, Hangtown Grill, and even Hangtown Tattoo and Body Piercing. Without a doubt, Hangman’s Tree Tavern is the site most deserving of bragging rights, for down in its basement you can see the original stump from the white oak hangin’ tree. I’ve seen it…kind of sad, really. 

Placerville likely got its original name in January 1849 when a colorful gambler was waylaid by robbers after a particularly profitable evening at the saloon. Once captured, the thieves were unanimously declared guilty and condemned to death by hanging after a 30-minute trial and little evidence. At that time, the infamous white oak hanging tree stood in a hay yard next to the aptly-named Jackass Inn.

 Ken Gonzales-Day, an art professor at Scripps College in Claremont, California, has written an excellent book, Lynching in the West, which chronicles 350 such cases in California between 1850 and 1935. Tragically, many were racial injustices. Because he feels people tend to fictionalize the past unless they realize real people lived it, he has photographed dozens of “hang trees” in his research and describes his pictorial journey as “part pilgrimage and part memorial.” Some day, he says, the trees will be gone, and the last living pieces of this history will be lost.

Ken, who describes the trees as “witnesses standing there when the mobs walked by,” has kindly shared with us some of his hauntingly beautiful photographs, the three below and the “bare” tree at the top. It actually is very like the imaginary scene in my head where my outlaw bride almost meets her Maker. I didn’t know Ken’s work when I wrote the story.

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hang-tree-twoFortunately, most of California’s native trees don’t have such  grim histories. Our state has got California live oak and palm trees (not native), groves of avocado and lemon and olive, the giant Sequoia, Generals Sherman and Grant, the coastal redwoods, ponderosa and jeffrey pines, and bristlecones thousands of years old. Not to mention hundreds of species inbetween.

Other than a Christmas tree by my fireplace in December, my favorite tree hang-treeis the lemon tree in my backyard. I raid it almost daily for slices for my iced tea. And we found a humming bird nest in a red-leaf not long ago.

What are your favorite tree stories? Did you climb them as a kid? Build a tree house? Hang a tire swing from a branch, or a hammock between two trunks? Tack a fairy door over a knothole to give the little people some privacy?

Please share!

(Many thanks to Professor Ken Gonzales-Day and the LA Times, May 7, 2009.) 

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What to Put in a Mason Jar

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Howdy! When the fillies invited me a few weeks ago to toss my name into the Stetson as a permanent blogger at Wildflower Junction, I tingled with joy and nerves both. There I was, asked to join a stable of award-winning authors who inspire me, whose books I read and treasure. At a site that recently got its millionth hit and, on a daily basis, reaches hundreds of viewers. 

Writers and readers and cowgirls, oh my. Then came the decision on what to post first. Oh, I’ve done some guest blogs at the Junction that were well received. So I reckoned I had to devise some topic to eclipse those. 

Should I feature locales near my Southern California homestead where Western movies are filmed and totally evoke the inner cowboy in anybody who drives by on a busy freeway?  Here’s Rocky Peak, one of my favorite places.

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Should I orate on the marvelous coincidence that both Pam Crooks and I have daughters with the same name getting married imminently? Share a sneak preview of The Dress? Nope. Had to nix that. Top Secret. The groom has been ordered to check out this blog today.  

Preview my book Marrying Minda that will be released in a few weeks?

 

carter-for-blogThen of course, there’s always my toddling grandson about whom I can emote endlessly. And who I believe has romance cover-model potential in about twenty years.

 

Ah I can handle all of that later on. For when the clouds parted, I realized what my inaugural Filly post should be about. 

 

Chocolate!

 

My mainstay, my dear love. The ruin of my waistline, hips, thighs and every pound of flesh in every direction. And how to tie my vice, my guilty pleasure, into a Western blog?

 

The Mason Jar.      yellowmason

 

Said jar was actually invented as the first canning jar in 1858 by John Landis  Mason. However, it was Frenchman Francois Nicolas Appert, a pickler, brewer, chef and distiller who established the principles of preserving food in hermetically-sealed glass containers in 1810. 

 

In 1858, John Mason developed a shoulder-seal jar with a zinc screw-cap. Check the name and date on the yellow jar. Ten years later, he inroduced a top rubber seal above the threads and under a glass lid.

 

So why do most Mason jars come marked with the name Ball? 

Let me digress. I have an antique Mason jar of my very own, the blue jar shown below. It’s been displayed in each one of my domiciles starting with my college dormitory. Why? Well, during my years of higher education in Nebraska, I often spent weekend with my roommate Bel at her family farm in Fairbury. My overly-protective father had allowed me to leave my California home because it was a church college and You’ll Be Safe There.

 Oh I loved those long leisurely weekends. I loved farm life so much I stumbled downstairs one morning about ten o’clock stating I’d love to marry a farmer. Her dad, who had been up for five hours, had just come inside for his quick mid-morning coffee. I still hear his shouts of laughter as his wife started on cooking her second big meal of the day before I’d even wiped the sleep dust from my eyes. 

These darling folks happily sent me exploring the farmstead to acquire souvenirs to take home. Old rusty tractor gears decorate my patio to this day. And I found my Mason jar all by myself in their old-fashioned  disused wash house. It’s one of the ten things I’d save if a tornado was coming. Well, make that an earthquake.

 

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My treasured Mason jar displays the name Ball and the date  1906. Because John Mason’s patent expired in 1879 , the name changed. When the market opened for competition in 1884, the Ball brothers swooped in and started a manufacturing company in New York State. However, three years later, Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company moved to Indiana.

 

In 1909, the first Ball Blue Book was published, full of tips on home canning. I am certain my gramma and mom used this book. You see, my brother found ancient Mason jars of canned peaches a few years ago when we started cleaning out mom’s old garage. We reckoned they were left from the Cold War years when you expected a nuclear blast and had to store up indestructible food to survive it.

 

ball-state-admin-buildling-1898But for the Balls, it wasn’t all about the jar.  Frank, Edmund, George, Lucius and William Ball endowed a small college in Muncie that later became Ball State University. Even more impressive, their company did not lay off a single worker during the Great Depression!

 

After 88 years as a family business, the company went public in 1972, and the Ball mason jar celebrates its 125h birthday this year. Through August 23, the exhibit Can It! 125 Years of the Ball Jar is going on at Minnetrista Cultural Center in Muncie. Details at minnetrista.net 

All right now. Lesson over. Can’t help it. I am a former teacher. But what does all this have to go with chocolate?

 

SAND ART BROWNIES!                       sand_art_brownies          

They’re easy to make and lovely to look at. Layers of cocoa, brown sugar, chocolate chips and other goodies in a Mason jar make this a gift to remember.

I’ve made these jars for all my neighbors at Christmas, and it’s a sweet homemade gift for first-day-of school, a thank-you or hostess gift. Cover the lid with red and white gingham cover tied with a blue bow and you’ve got a perfect treat for a Fourth of July BBQ.This recipe makes one gift jar using a wide-mouth quart Mason jar.  Cover the top with a circle of gingham and tie with a pretty ribbon. And don’t forget to attach the directions.

For 1 jar:

2/3 t. salt
1 1/8 c. flour, divided
1/3 c. cocoa powder
2/3 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 c. walnuts or pecans

Instructions:

In  a clean, dry canning jar, layer the ingredients as follows:

2/3 t. salt
5/8 c. flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 c. walnuts

Close jar, add fabric circle and attach the following directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 9×9 baking pan.

2. Pour the contents of the jar into a large bowl and mix well.

3. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2/3 cup vegetable oil and 3 eggs. Beat until just combined.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool and enjoy! Or if you’re like me, eat warm. Hot, even.

Now, the big questions of the day:

1. Have you ever canned anything using a Mason jar?  (I myself am terrified of the process. I never married a farmer and am fairly helpless in the kitchen.)

2. What is your favorite way to eat chocolate? 

Thanks for stopping by today. To celebrate my first day at Wildflower Junction as an official filly,  I’ll be drawing the name of one poster to receive a pretty pressed wildflower bookmark! 

(Sincere thanks to  Country Living magazine, May 2009, Canning Pantry,  and Minnetrista for the fun facts.)