I knew Halloween evolved from the Celtic festival of Samhain and All Hallow’s Eve, but that was about all I knew. This year I decided to change that and dove into researching Halloween. First, I learned in New England the night before Halloween is Cabbage Night. Right now, I’m glad I live in Texas, because this tradition involves “pranksters” leaving rotten vegetables near a neighbor’s front door! I doubt this did much to promote good neighbor relations! Despite that, Happy Cabbage Night y’all.
Now on to Halloween…
I discovered many Halloween traditions revolved around helping women identify her potential husband or reassuring her she would indeed find a one. In 18th century Ireland, a cook would bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween. The hope was that the ring would bring the finder true love.
In Scotland, fortune tellers instructed marriage-minded women to name her hazelnuts after her suitors. Boy does that sound odd. 🙂 Then she was to toss them, the hazelnuts not her suitors, 🙂 into the fire. The nut that burned completely rather than exploding represented her future husband. Another legend insisted if a woman ate a sweet treat of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg on Halloween, she would dream of her future husband that night.
Women would throw apple peelings over their shoulders in hopes of forming the initials of her future husband’s name. I wonder if there was strategic throwing involved with this tradition to get a desired result. Another legend told a woman to stand in front of a mirror in a dark room holding a candle. The hope was if she peered into the mirror, would see her husband’s face over her shoulder.
Halloween parties could get competitive regarding matrimony. For example, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut hunt would be the next one to marry. The first one to successfully bob for apples was predicted to walk down the aisle soon. This tradition had visions of unmarried women practicing their bobbing for apple skills before Halloween parties to ensure a victory to pop into my head!
Because beliefs of different European countries mixed with American Indian traditions, America developed its own unique version of Halloween. At first, celebrations featured “play parties” to celebrate the harvest. Neighbors shared stories about the dead, told fortunes, danced and sang. The night also included mischief. But in the late 1800’s, people tried to shift the holiday away from ghosts, pranks and witchcraft to a more community or neighborly get together holiday. Parents were encouraged to remove anything frightening, grotesque or scary from their Halloween celebrations. Despite this community-centered focus, adding parades and town-wide parties, by the 1920’s and 30’s, vandalism became prevalent.
However, by the 1950’s communities had tampered down on the vandalism and Halloween became a more child-centered holiday. This probably was a result of all those post-war babies, too. Communities revived the tradition of trick-or-treating after it was halted due to sugar rationing during WWII. The thought was people could prevent being pranked by giving children a small treat.
Today, Halloween is America’s second largest commercial holiday, surpassed only by Christmas. We spend around 9 billion, yup with a billion with B, annually. That’s a lot of candy, costumes and yard art. It works out to an average American shelling out $86.79.
Speaking of candy…we haven’t even touched that delicious subject. But let’s do that now. Leave a comment on what’s your favorite trick-or-treat candy and why or what one makes you you want to pull a trick on someone to be entered for today’s giveaway. One random commenter will receive the pumpkin coasters and a copy of Family Ties.
When I was thinking about a title for today’s blog post, of course my brain went right to Cowboys and Christmas. But from there, it tripped along over a fun old Christmas song. Emmylou Harris’ version is my favorite and the one playing on the soundtrack in my head this morning.
Truthfully, I’ve had Christmas on the brain for months and months (okay, maybe it’s been there since last Christmas!). But I have a good reason. Well, several good reasons, but I’m excited to share three of them with you today.
The first reason I’m so excited for the holiday season is my newly released non-fiction book – A Cowboy Christmas.
The book features interviews with rodeo and ranch families who share their favorite holiday traditions. Readers will find holiday how-tos, gift ideas, decorating tips and recipes (more than 70 of them). Some of the recipes are my family favorites and others come from the ranch and rodeo families. I tested (and tasted!) them all. I also had fun taking all the photographs of the food and how-tos. It was a great learning experience and one I’m so happy I had the opportunity to explore.
Several of the families mentioned in the book have had their lives touched by a special organization called the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. The JCCF steps in when a rodeo athlete sustains a catastrophic injury and is unable to work for an extended time. They’ve provided $8 million in funds to more than 1,100 athletes, giving the cowboys a hand up when they need it most. And every dollar donated goes directly into the fund without any administrative fees removed.
Back in 2013, I was working on the first book in a new series and reached out to the Justin Sportsmedicine Team with some questions. They kindly helped me and that’s when I first learned about the JCCF.
This is the sixth year I’ll donate ten percent of my book proceeds to the fund.
Any Shanna Hatfield book purchased between now and Christmas counts and will help benefit a great cause.
There’s nothing like a little Christmas glow to light up a holiday romance. . .
When the bright lights and big city lost its luster, Carol Bennett returns to her Montana hometown disillusioned and ready to embrace a simple, quiet existence. After she takes over the Christmas Mountain bookstore, she is determined to forget the glitzy world that left her with broken dreams. The store provides the perfect place to hide from her past while indulging her secret joy of reading sappy romances.
Then she encounters a cowboy too handsome for his own good and too insightful for hers. Although she adores his grandmother, rancher Tim Burke is stubborn, bold, and opinionated. He refuses to let her hide when he sees her all too clearly and does his best to draw her out of her protective shell.
In spite of her determination to detest the man, the sparks sizzling between them could light up the town’s Christmas tree. Carol has to decide if she’ll choose being brave and latching onto happiness or staying safely tucked away in her store.
Will two such opposite people be able to find love somewhere between romance and Christmas?
Also in its sixth year, I’m thrilled to invite you all to join me for the annual Cowboys and Christmas party taking place on Facebook November 7! There will be guest authors, game, giveaways, and so much fun! Hope to see you all there!
What about you?
What is one thing you are looking forward to about the holidays?
Post your answer for a chance to win a digital copy of Between Christmas and Romance!
As I am writing this, it’s Memorial Day. To most of us, this is a day off work to spend with family and friends. We know the holiday is meant as to remember those who died serving our country, but do we really do that? Do we take the time and make the effort to do that? Do we realize how important this day is to those who’ve lost a loved one in service to our country? So many lives given for our freedom.
Today I’m remembering a young man I never met. Lloyd Wohlford, Jr. died serving our country in Vietnam on June 17, 1967. I learned about Lloyd when my uncle, Wayne Walter married Margaret Wohlford, Lloyd’s sister. From everything Margaret has told me about Lloyd, I’m sorry I never knew him. I also know the world is a much better place because of him.
Margaret describes her brother as a hard-working farm boy raised in Decorah, Iowa. She said Lloyd “always knew what needed to be done and the right way to do it.” When he went to Vietnam, he took those values with him. When Lloyd and his buddies were ambushed, this farm boy did what needed to be done. He carried others, as Margaret said, “numbers too many to recall” to safety. After saving numerous lives, he picked up his weapon and returned to battle. That was when he was lost.
For families of those who died serving our country and those who fought alongside the fallen, as Margaret said, “Memorial Day is not for those alive but for those we have lost.” It’s a day for remembering and to ensure heroes like Lloyd are never forgotten. We need to remember not only that heroes like Lloyd sacrificed their lives, but the legacy their actions leave behind. People are alive today because Lloyd Wohlford, Jr. was in Vietnam that day to save them. He lives on through them and everyone who remembers him.
As you read this, Memorial Day is over, but that doesn’t mean the remembering is. We have so many freedoms in the United States. It’s easy to take them for granted and forget how others fought and died for the freedom we enjoy. It’s true—freedom isn’t free. Many have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
If you haven’t lost someone close to you serving our country, ask someone who has to share memories of his/her loved one. When you see a post on a fallen soldier on social media, please share. Help keep that memory alive. We can never repay our debt to those who died for our freedom, but we can start with ensuring they are never forgotten.
Thank you for stopping by today. To be entered for the random drawing to win a copy of the Blessed wall handing and Home on the Ranch: Colorado Rescue leave a comment. If you’ve lost a loved one serving our country, please share his/her story with us. I’d love to help you honor your hero.
Since we are coming up very soon on Valentine’s Day, I thought we might talk about love, and, if you will bear with me, I thought I’d tell you a bit about my own very personal story of finding love. The year was 1995 — late in the year — and my third book, PROUD WOLF’S WOMAN had recently been turned in to AVON/HarperCollins for editing. As I awaited the editing process, my attention went to another story and I had begun work on that. That story is GRAY HAWK’S LADY.
My own tale began with a kiss. But let me backtrack. I had in 1992-1993 gone through a divorce and had come back to California, because at that time I had considered California like my home. Unfortunately for me, I jumped right into a relationship that was very bad for…many reasons. After that relationship, I wanted nothing to do with men, love, marriage again. Sigh…
So I was on my own and definitely enjoying being on my own. One of my best friends (whom I had known since 1970) was pushing me to go on a blind date. I didn’t want to go and I told her I wanted nothing to do with men, relationships, marriage, dating…nothing….
But she insisted and I found my self consenting to one date. That was in January of 1996. GRAY HAWK’S LADY was due to my publisher (AVON) in July of 1996, but I had plenty of time to write it and had, indeed, started writing it when I went on this first date.
So off I went on this first ever in my life blind date. The gentleman picked me up at my house and I noticed he was wearing cowboy boots, and, since I am interested in the West and Cowboys and Indians, this was great. He was also born and raised in Montana, and I was very interested in Montana because the story of GRAY HAWK’ S LADY was to take place in Montana.
The date was good — okay. We went out to eat, but I was left with the impression that he wasn’t really interested in me. So, I put it behind me. He never called, never asked me back out and never told me what was happening and so eventually, just to end my wondering about it, I called my friend, told her I was sorry it hadn’t worked out and … well, so long sort of thing. To my surprise she wouldn’t let it go — I had just wanted to put it behind me. She said, “Oh, no, he’s really interested in you.” and I said, “Oh, no, I don’t think so. Let’s just relegate that date to the past and go on from here.” And she said, “No, I’m sure he really liked you.”
I had no idea that she would call his brother. I am told that they talked, and that the upshot of it was that Paul then called me and asked me for another date. Well, it had been a good first date, I thought, and he was a nice gentleman and perhaps we could be friends. So I accepted.
Goodness! Little did I know what was in store. On the second date, we were both more relaxed, held hands, and I thought, okay, we’ll be friends. He took me home, walked me to the door and just as I was about ready to go inside, he took me in his arms and kissed me. Now, this was quite some kiss. He meant it. And I became very aware of that. His hands caressed my cheeks, my eyes, my face, my hair, my neck. It went on and on and on, and when he was done, I felt as though my world was spinning — but in a good way. Afterwards I stared at him and for the first time, I thought to myself, “Who is this man who can make me pay attention to him with no more than a kiss?”
Well, that was that. We had a date the next week, and within 2-3 weeks, I had moved in with him and we were married in May 1996. Our first date was February 3rd 1996. So it definitely was a whirlwind romance.
Now you may be wondering what this has to do with the book, GRAY HAWK’S LADY. Well, a lot, I’m afraid. As I mentioned earlier, I was in the middle of writing that book, and I fell so deeply in love with this man, who is now my husband, that of course that love was written all over the printed pages of GRAY HAWK’S LADY. That first kiss and my emotional reaction to it is recorded in that work. Also, my gradual coming to understand that this man was the most important man in my life is in that book. His calmness, his teasing, his care…it’s all written there as I fell head over heels in love.
Did I mention that my earring (the night of that first kiss) fell off — and I have pierced ears…!
In May of this year, we will have been married 23 years. Interestingly, I still have the pictures of our wedding on my website http://www.novels-by-KarenKay.com — can’t bring myself to take them down, even though 23 years more or less have gone by now. People sometimes write to me and congratulate me on my recent marriage — and I smile. To me, in many ways, it does seem like a recent marriage, as I fall in love with this man all over again every day.
I’ll tell you true that I love this man with all my heart — and as the years have gone by, that love does not diminish; it grows and grows and grows. He stole my heart with that first kiss. (I’ll knock on wood here.) As the — gee, was it the Ronettes that once sang the song, “And Then He Kissed Me,” — it has always seemed to me that it started with that kiss. Ah, sweet!
I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog today and I hope you’ll come in and leave a message. I would love to hear about your own personal love stories.
Will I be giving away GRAY HAWK’S LADY today as a Valentine’s Day Gift? You bet I will. I’ll be gifting that book to 2 (two) lucky readers today, so please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Please know, also, that all rules for Giveaways apply — they are listed off to the right here of the page — at the very top.
And please remember to check back on Wednesday or Thursday evening to see if you are a winner!
I think my love of the west and cowboys grew out of my love for my grandparents’ Iowa farm. I loved that place. I did a lot of thinking and dreaming there. I also learned a lot, mainly from my grandmother. The older I get the more I appreciate what I learned from her. She was an incredibly strong woman, but she possessed a quiet strength. She worked the farm and raised six children. I always thought her the most patient person I knew. She never had a cross word for anyone, and I can count on one hand the number of times she lost her temper.
My grandmother always made time for me and my endless questions. Such a simple gift, her time and attention, and yet, such an important one. And I had a lot of questions about whatever she was doing, whether it be gardening, crocheting, sewing or cooking. All of which I still enjoy doing today.
One day when she was making one of my two favorite treats, cream puffs–the other was her angle food cake with fresh strawberries–I asked questions and wrote down what she told me. Because of my curiosity, I have my grandmother’s recipe for cream puffs.
For a holiday gift, I’m sharing her recipe with you.
½ C butter
½ tsp salt
1 C water
1 C sifted flour
Combine butter, salt and water in heavy saucepan. Bring to a hard boil. Remove from heat and dump in flour all at once. Stir until the mixture sticks together in a ball and leaves the edges of the pan. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Cool 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating until egg has been completely absorbed. Drop by tablespoonful, heaping in the middle, on greased baking sheet with 3 inches between each. Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce temperature to 350 and bake 10 minutes. Do not open oven during baking or cream puffs could
4 Tablespoons sugar
2 egg yolks (beaten)
1 heaping Tablespoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons milk
In a heavy saucepan, bring 1 C milk to a boil. Stir in above mixture. Reduce heat and cook until thick. When cool combine with ½ pint whipped heavy cream.
Leave a comment about your favorite holiday treat and be entered to win a cup and plate set along with a copy of Family Ties. May 2019 be filled with many wonders and joys for you and your family, and remember, of all the gifts you can give, the best is your time and attention.
The 1940s and 50s has been called the golden age of Christmas music, and for good reason. White Christmas, Sleigh Ride, Winter Wonderland and Rudolph, The Red Nose Reindeer are just some of the treasures that came out of this period.
Following World War II people were ready for messages of hope and change, and song writers were only too eager to comply.
Some of the greatest Christmas hits have fascinating and even funny stories behind them. Silver Bells, written in 1950, is one of them.
Inspired by the number of different kinds of bells heard at Christmas, the songwriters Jay Livingston and Ray Evan decided to write a song about them.
They called the song Tinkle Bells.After they finished writing the lyrics, they played it for Evan’s wife and were shocked then she almost fell off the couch laughing.
She then explained that the song might make people think more of the bathroom than Christmas. The two men didn’t have a clue as to what she was talking about until she explained that mothers used the word “tinkle” to get their youngsters to use the toilet.
The two men wisely changed the song title to Silver Bells.
Jay and Ray weren’t the only songwriters saved from making a mistake. Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane wrote Have yourself a Merry, Little Christmas for Judy Garland to sing on screen.
What they hadn’t counted on was Judy rejecting their song and threatening to walk off the set unless the lyrics were changed. In the original song, they’d written that the two lovers might never see each other again. Have yourself a Merry Christmas/it may be your last/next year we’ll be living in the past.
Judy knew that wasn’t the message that people wanted to hear in times of war. She sent the song back for a rewrite. Though Martin and Blane were convinced it was a mistake, they gave the song more upbeat lyrics and scored a hit.
Another hit was inspired by a parade. Gene Autry had been invited to be a special guest at the Hollywood Christmas parade.
Fearing that his prewar career success was behind him, he was delighted to be greeted by thousands of screaming youngsters. It seemed he had not been forgotten.
However, Gene soon learned his mistake. The children weren’t screaming for him. They were screaming for the man behind him.
“Look, Ma,” one boy yelled. “Here comes Santa Claus.”
Gene Autry had been upstaged, and his worst fears had been realized. The screaming children had no idea who he was. Later, he recounted the incident to his composer friend, Oakley Halderman.
Halderman laughed. “Sounds like a song to me.”
The two men worked on the song together. Here Comes Santa Claus became Autry’s first hit in a decade, and helped to relaunch his career.
One of my favorite Christmas songs is The Little Drummer Boy. What is your favorite?
It’s Christmas Time! It’s a season for giving. And today I will be giving away not only a free e-book of my latest release, BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY, but I’ll also be giving away another free e-book of the first in this series, THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF. So come on in, leave a comment, and also please sure to check back here for the winners on either Wednesday or Thursday evening.
One of my most favorite Christmas memories is being told a story the night before Christmas in an attempt to get me to go to sleep. It didn’t work very well (getting me to go to sleep). But it is a wonderful memory.
And so I thought I’d regale you with this beautiful story, an ancient, timeless, American Indian Legend. I was late today making the post, and so I’ve posted the legend that I told you last year, but this year, because I’m late, I’m first going to tell you a beautiful story of The Gift of the Creator. This story is taken from the book, LEGENDS OF THE IROQUIOS, by Tehanetorens. Enjoy!
Long, long ago, an old, old man came into an Iroquois Village. He was tired and hungry, and his clothing was tattered and torn. As he walked through the village, he came first to a longhouse of the Turtle Clan. Pulling on the entryway, he asked for food and lodging for the night. But he was turned away because he looked to be an old beggar, and he was instructed to go away.
Next the old man came to the longhouse that had the symbol of a snipe on the house — a snipe is a kind of wading bird. Again, he pulled back on the entryway and he asked for food. But like before, he was scolded and turned away. He moved on.
He walked on to the longhouses of many of the other clans, including the Wolf, the Eagle, Beaver and more. Each time he asked for food and lodging, but each time he was turned away.
Exhausted now, the old man came at last to the very last longhouse in the Iroquois Village. Pulling back on the cover across the entrance, he was met by an old woman. Again, he asked for food and lodging for the night.
However, this time the old woman took pity on him, and asked him to come inside, where she treated him to a hearty meal, and invited him to stay for the night. She made him welcome, giving him warm clothing and warm bedding.
However, the next day, the man was very ill, and he asked the woman to please help him by going into the forest and gathering the roots of a plant.
This she did for him. When she returned, he guided her on how to make a soup and a tea from the plant, which he then consumed. Soon he was well. But it wasn’t long before he became ill once more, and again, he instructed the woman to go out into the forest and to gather the stalk of yet another plant. This she did. Again, he instructed her how to make a tea of it, which, when he drank the tea, he became well.
Over and over again, the man became sick, and sent the woman into the forest to pick different herbs and plants, and each time, when he drank the tea, he became well. One day, the woman came home to the longhouse and found that the old man had become a handsome, young man.
The old woman became frightened, but the young man told her to be calm. He told her that he was the Creator, and that because of her kindness to him, he was going to bestow upon her, and the Bear Clan, a wonderful gift: the gift of healing. And so it came to be. The old woman became the most respected member of that tribe, and from that day forward, the Bear Clan, and all within it became the Keepers of the Medicine. The lesson learned is that kindness, empathy, and good-will are always rewarded. We may not always see it, as did the old woman in this story, and yet, we will, in our own way, be rewarded.
And now comes the story that is so beautiful to read about at this time of year.
This is the tale of a girl who married her one, true, love, a man who was a star. It’s origin is Sioux — I don’t know if that’s Lakota or Dakota or Nakota. All three are Sioux, just different dialects. By the way this story comes to us from the book, Favorite North American Indian Legends, printed by Dover. Before I start, I wanted to say that this story reminds me of a legend from one of my books, Soaring Eagle’s Embrace, which is now in e-books. Although the story of Soaring Eagle’s Embrace is based on a similar legend as the one I’m telling you today, it is a little different. Mainly in Soaring Eagle’s Embrace, it was the young man who fell in love with a star. Okay, that said, let’s pretend we are sitting around a fire in a warm, warm teepee. The scent of smoke is strong in the air, and loved ones surround us as we wrap ourselves in warm blankets. And so the storyteller begins:
Long ago, there were two sisters, one whose name was Earth and the other’s name was Water. This was at a time when all people and animals were in close communication with each other and so the animals supplied the sisters with all their needs.
One night the sky was clear and beautiful and both sisters looked up to the sky through their wigwam — comment, now we know that this was most likely the Dakota since they were living in Wigwams — anyway, they looked up through the hole in their wigwam and admired the beautiful stars.
Earth said to her sister that she’d had a dream about a handsome young man and that she thought he might be a star. Water responded saying that she, too, had seen a man in her dreams who was a brave man.
The sisters chose stars that they thought might be these men that they had dreamed of. Water chose the brightest star for her husband. Earth chose a little star that twinkled.
Then they slept. When they awoke, they were in the land of the Sky. The stars were, indeed, people. Now it happened that the man that water chose was an older warrior and that the man that Earth chose was a young, handsome man. Both sisters married these men and they were very happy.
One day the sisters went out onto the plains to dig turnips (a much favored food at this time in history). Both of their husbands warned them not to strike the ground too hard. But Earth, in her haste to dig the turnips, struck the ground so hard that she fell through the sky to the ground.
Earth was found and cared for by two older people who tried to help her. But she was so upset about losing her husband that all she did is cry. She could not even see her husband in the sky because he had blackened his face because he was now a widower. Earth waited and waited for him to come to her, but he could not. However, he did give her a most precious gift.
That night when she went to sleep, she dreamed of a beautiful red star. It had never been in the sky before. She knew at once that it was her son.
When she awoke, she found a handsome boy by her side — her son. Although Earth’s husband could not come to rescue her, and though he loved his son deeply, he gave to his wife the only gift that he could — their son, Star Boy. It was a gift from his heart..
‘Tis the season of giving. I hope you have enjoyed this story, short and simple though it is. I thought it was quite beautiful.
I’ll be giving away a free e-book of BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY to some lucky blogger. I’ll also be giving away a free e-book of THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF to some lucky blogger. Please do read the Giveaway Guidelines that govern our give-aways — off to the right side of the page.
BRAVE WOLF AND THE LADY is my most recent book. By the way, the paperback is reduced in price from $14.99 to $11.99 for the Holiday season.
THE PRINCESS AND THE WOLF is on sale for the Holiday season for $.99, and the paperback is on sale for $11.99, as well.
The picture below and to the right is of myself and my husband with Chief Mountain in the background, the setting in the book, SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE — on the Blackfeet reservation.
And so from my heart to yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas! And, or, Happy Holidays!