Pumpkins, Pilgrims, and Presidents

mayflower.jpgSitting in my comfortable home with plenty of food just a few steps away, it’s hard for me to imagine the hardships of the early pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock November, 1620. The conditions must’ve been horrendous, both on the Mayflower and in carving out a settlement in the dead of winter.

One hundred and two passengers set sail from England in a cramped ship that had little room for breathing, much less eating and sleeping. One adult male died enroute.  But one child was born during the long voyage, a baby boy who was named Oceanus.   

An unmarried passenger, John Howland, fell overboard during the voyage and was miraculously rescued. Here’s an odd fact—if he had drowned, we wouldn’t have had President George Bush Sr., President George W. Bush, President Teddy Roosevelt’s first lady, or Humphrey Bogart. They directly descended from John Howland. How wild is that? I’ve always heard that only six degrees separates each of us. Must be true. Five years after arriving in Plymouth, John married Elizabeth Tilly who had lost both parents within a few months of landing. John and Elizabeth ended up siring ten children and 82 grandchildren before they died.   

Also John Alden, another on board, was a descendant of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Vice President Dan Quayle. Seems these pilgrims contributed quite a lot to the presidential office!  

But back to their arrival in November, 1620, you can imagine how glad they must’ve been to have seen land. I know how squirmy I get in the car during a four hour trip. These people endured 66 days of nothing but water and pounding, gigantic waves. Most of the time, seawater soaked their bedding and clothing. It would’ve been extremely difficult to stay dry. Seeing that shoreline could only have renewed their hope. They just didn’t know what lay in store for them and how much strength and determination it would take.  

native-americans.jpgIn four months over half of them died. By March only 47 colonists were left. By the time they saw November, only four adult women out of eighteen who started out had survived. It’s a proven fact that none of the colonists would have made it if it hadn’t been for the generosity and compassion of the Native Americans who provided food and taught them how to live off the land. Oh, the thanks the settlers must’ve given!  

In November of 1621, Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony declared a day of Thanksgiving and prayer to celebrate the pilgrim’s first harvest and that was our first Thanksgiving.


From written account, they had roasted venison, turkey that was pilgrims.jpgprobably boiled or stewed. And for vegetables, squashes, carrots, cabbages and onions. They had no potatoes at that time. Corn was probably in the form of pumpkins.jpgmeal and not on the cob and used to make bread. Pumpkin, if they had it, was cooked into a pudding and not made into a pie. Honey and maple syrup was the only sweetener available. They had no cranberry sauce either. It wasn’t the most scrumptious feast, but I’m sure they were grateful for each morsel.


turkey1.jpgIt wasn’t until November 26, 1789 that George Washington proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving. But, the holiday wasn’t widely observed on the same day. States had wide latitude on which day they wanted to celebrate it. President Abraham Lincoln made it an annual holiday in 1863 and it was observed on the fifth Thursday in November. Then for three years, President Franklin Roosevelt moved it to the third Thursday. But after much uproar, Congress and the president anchored it officially on the fourth Thursday and that’s where it’s remained ever since.  

Now we get to celebrate it again this Thursday. I hope when we sit down to our heavily-laden table that we remember the pilgrims and their Native American friends—their sacrifices and the resiliency of the human spirit. It’s a time to give thanks for what we have and a time to remember our service men and women who are far from home.

I’m thankful for freedom to come and go as I wish, for the food I eat, and especially for the love of family and friends. What are you thankful for?

Happy Halloween!


Those of us here at Petticoats & Pistols want to wish you all a spook-tacular Halloween!

To show how much we appreciate all the fun we have with you, we’ll be posting throughout the day.

So keep checking back!  And keep scrolling down!



horseheader1.jpeHAPPY HALLOWEEN!

For all of you die-hard nutritionalists — or just for all those who want to eat cleanly, here’s my recipe for Halloween Brownie Protein Bars.


1 3/4 cups Egg White protein powder — I use Jay Robb

1-4 cup Rice Protein Powder — organic if possible

2 Tblsp. edible vegetable glycerin — or maple syrup if you can’t find the vegetable glycerin at your health food store

7-8 teasp. pure stevia — get at a health food store

3 tblsp. cocoa powder — organic if possible

4 tblsp. butter

5 – 6 tblsp. coconut oil — get at a health food store, please — the kind you find in most grocery stores is not a good source

If too gooey, add more protein powder.  Pat flat and cut into pumpkin shapes, adding pecans as decoration.

Okay, it’s not like this is as good as a cookie, but it’s healthy — gives you the protein the body so needs and tastes better than any other protein bar out there on the market.  HAVE FUN!



Witch Finger Cookies


I have two boys, so the creepier the Halloween treat, the better.  Since we live in the country, trick-or-treating isn’t an option, though they still manage to load up on sweets.  We grow our own pumpkins and have a blast carving them—here’s two from last year, Harry Potter & the Puking Pumkin  🙂

Last year these cookies were a big hit at the Junior High.  They gobbled up these delicious witch fingers and goblin fingers (no green coloring for goblins, added a few creepy cuts and scars).


Witch Fingers

Yield: 5 dozen

1 cup –  Butter, softenedWitch
1 cup – Powdered sugar
1 – Egg
1 tsp – Almond extract
1 tsp – Vanilla
2 2/3 – cups Flour
1 tsp – Baking powder
1 tsp – Salt
3/4 cup – Almonds, whole blanched **I used roasted almonds

Few drops – Green food coloring

1 Tube red decorator gel  **I used a tube of decorator’s milk chocolate instead of gel—the tube is warmed in the microwave to melt the chocolate—when the chocolate cools it really holds on those fingernails—being a chocoholic, I also painted the fingers with chocolate    *A friend of mine used sliced almonds for fingernails, those also turned out nice. 


In bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg, almond extract, vanilla and food coloring. Beat in flour, baking soda, and salt. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Working with one quarter of the dough at a time and keeping remainder refrigerated, roll a heaping teaspoonful of dough into finger shape for each cookie. Press almond firmly into narrow end for nail. Press center together to create the knuckle shape–you puff it out rather than squeeze it in. Using paring knife, make slashes in several places to form knuckle.Place on lightly greased baking sheets; bake in 325F (160C) oven for 20-25 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes. Lift up almond, squeeze red gel (or chocolate) onto nail bed and press almond back in place. Remove from baking sheets and let cool on racks. Repeat with remaining dough. 

Baker’s tip:The cookies will puff up while baking—shape them THIN.

Wishing everyone a Safe & Fun Halloween! 

Tips For Using Excess Candy

I have to restrain myself from laughing here because I NEVER have any excess candy! But if you do, here are some things you can do with  it.

Peanut Butter Cups — Melt and pour over cake or ice cream as a sauce or press into the center and make thumbprint cookies.

Candy Corn — Fold candy corn into pancakes or roll them into popcorn balls and puffed rice treats. Or when icing a cake, use them as a bottom border in place of piped icing. They also work well on top of iced cupcakes.

Snickers, Baby Ruth, M&M’s — Use a food processor to quickly chop bars into bits, then fold them into cookie dough in place of chocolate chips. Or use them to top brownies and other baked bars. Or some cooks use this candy to decorate cookie pizzas, or fold them into softened ice cream to make your own blizzards.

Peppermint Patties — Put them in brownie batter by layering them on the bottom half of the batter, then spread the other half of the batter on top and bake. Yummy!

Lollipops and other hard candy — Make stained glass cookies by cutting out the middle of sugar cookies and putting crushed hard candy in the hole, then bake.

Gingerbread Houses — You can use all kinds of candy to decorate gingerbread houses next month. Necco wafers make good roof tiles. M&M’s or Skittles make excellent door knobs. Licorice string can border windows. Gumdrops make pretty flowers. Hard candy makes windows. Snickers, Baby Ruth and bars like that can be broken up to use in lots of ways. Your imagination can run wild.

Jack-o-Lantern Jumble–yum!

We LOVE this snack at our house.  I must’ve made oh, a gazillion batches over the years. 

Jack-o-Lantern Jumble

4 cups Corn Chex
4 cups Rice Chex
1 cup salted peanuts

Combine above in a large bowl and set aside.

1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire jackolantern-jumble.jpgsauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 cup candy corn

In small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, peanut butter, Worcestershire sauce, salt and garlic powder.  Cook and stir until butter and peanut butter are melted.  Pour over cereal mixture and toss to coat.

Spread into greased 15 x 10 pan.  Bake 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Cool.  Stir in candy corn.  Store in air-tight container.

Makes 2 quarts.

Amazing Five Minute Fudge

fudge.jpg1  12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
2/3  cup sweetened condensed milk (half of a 14-oz can)
1  tablespoon water
3/4  cup chopped walnuts, toasted if desired
1  teaspoon vanilla

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper; set aside. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and water.

Microwave, uncovered, on high for 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 1 minute more, or until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.

Stir in nuts and vanilla.

Pour mixture onto prepared cookie sheet and spread into a 9×6-inch rectangle, or drop mixture by rounded teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheet.

Chill about 30 minutes or until firm.

Cut fudge into 1-1/2-inch squares. Makes 24 yummy pieces

Christmas on the Frontier


The holidays are fast approaching and many of us have already begun to make plans, buying gifts, making things, stocking up on flour and almond bark.  Sometimes we get stressed out with all there is to do, what with addressing cards and baking cookies for school programs and stopping by all those open houses our friends are having.  This year we’d all do well to take a few minutes and remember just how convenient our lives are in comparison to those of our ancestors.  When you think about it, preparing for a holiday is often as simple as making an online purchase or stopping by the grocery store.  But what did our great-great grandmothers do to get ready? 

In the mid 1800s the festivities were much the same as they are today, with traditions from other countries having been adopted.  Our pioneer fathers and mothers decorated trees, gave gifts, baked cookies, puddings and pies, hung stockings by the fire and attended church celebrations.  On the frontier, away from stores and conveniences, soldiers, cowboys, mountain men and pioneers faced extreme difficulties while bringing Christmas to the plains and the mountains.  They often weathered blizzards and many winters game was difficult to find.  Fruits and vegetables dried or canned from the fall harvest were rationed sparingly.   

The fortunate were able to bring heirlooms and ornaments west with them, but many more had to be resourceful and use whatever nature provided: evergreen boughs, pinecones, holly, nuts, popcorn and berries.  Christmas trees were most often decorated with ribbon, yarn, cookie dough ornaments, gingerbread men, paper cutouts and popcorn strings. woodenhorse.jpg

These men and women didn’t make a run to Walmart for extra lights or unpack plastic totes from their basement storage.  They braved the elements, often spending late night hours sewing and knitting to make meager gifts.

doll.jpgFamily members had to work for months in order to create handmade items.  Cornhusk dolls were popular.  The beauty and durability of cloth dolls depended on the talent of the parents who made them.  Some had attractive embroidered faces, while others had painted features.  Wool or human hair was added, and the clothing was similar to that of the child.  

dancing-dan.jpgA doll that was popular with boys as well as girls was the dancing doll, sometimes called Dancing Dan or Limber Jack. Its wooden body was jointed at the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and elbows, and had a hole in the back into which a stick was inserted to make the doll dance. It took skill to make the doll move in time with music or a song. This was a form of entertainment before the days of television.  How long do you think something like that would entertain one of our kids today who are used to video games and computers? 

Among other gifts were sachets, carved wooden toys, such as spinning tops, trains and horses.  Pillows, footstools and embroidered handkerchiefs all took work.  Knitted scarves, hats and socks were practical.  Sometimes children received cookies and fruit.  Remember how delighted Laura Ingalls was to find a tin cup, a peppermint candy and a shiny penny in her stocking on Christmas morning? 

207634_ginger_bread_men__baking.jpgOften, the tree wasn’t cut and decorated until Christmas Eve.  A family would sing carols, and if they were fortunate to have a musician and an instrument in the family, they could even have accompaniment. If there was a church nearby, there was a church service on Christmas Day, followed by a meal consisting of goose or turkey.  Aren’t you glad you don’t have to pluck a turkey?  If fortunate, unmarried men were invited to join a family for their festivities.  People often spent the day visiting friends and neighbors. cowboyclog.jpg

We often think of those as simpler times, times when family and friends and the true meaning of Christmas were the focus, rather than the gifts and the commercial aspect.

Sometimes I think it would be refreshing to peel back all the busyness and glitz and simply celebrate the holiday quietly.  This year my critique group has planned to exchange gifts we make ourselves.  It should be fun to see what everyone comes up with.  I’m still thinking on mine….the thought of fudge won’t leave me alone.  

We can all be thankful that our forefathers kept the spirit of Christmas alive on the frontier, because many of their traditions are still an important part of our celebrations.  What can you do this year to simplify your holiday and make more time for the things that are really important?