Aprons: Nifty Things to Have Around

It’s so great to be back on our regular blogging schedules here on P&P. I’ve really missed everyone! I hope you enjoyed the guests and maybe won some fabulous prizes.


Today, I’m going to talk about the importance of aprons. I’m not so old that I can’t remember when every wife, mother, and grandmother wore them. They were quite handy to have around. The main principle was to protect the dress underneath, especially when cooking. Aprons were a lot easier to wash then a dress. Back before automatic washers and dryers there was usually only one wash day set aside per week. Unlike today when we can pop something in the washer and turn the dial, washing clothes was a major chore.


But let’s look at some of the other uses that aprons filled.


They were handy for removing hot pans from the oven. Not exactly a good replacement for pot holders, aprons were readily at their fingertips and did the job.


Aprons were used for gathering eggs from the chicken coop. Or for carrying fussy chicks. And sometimes for taking half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven. They could also shoo an angry rooster or a lazy dog off the porch in case of need.


When company came, those aprons made ideal hiding places for shy children. And those big old aprons were excellent for drying tears or cleaning dirty ears.


When the weather turned cold, aprons could be wrapped around grandma’s arms and used as a makeshift shawl. Or she could wipe sweat from a brow and carry kindling and wood chips into the kitchen for the stove.


While working in the garden, aprons were really useful to have. A woman could load her apron full of ripe vegetables. And she could use her apron to hold the hulls of peas she shelled. In the fall, aprons could carry apples that had fallen from the trees. Those nifty garments could polish those apples to a shine too.


Unexpected company coming to call? No problem. It was surprising how much furniture that apron could dust in a short time. Better and faster than a feather duster and she didn’t have to go looking for it!


Aprons were amazingly used in place of cell phones. When dinner was ready, grandma walked out onto the porch and waved her apron to call men in from the fields. It was a sign dinner was ready and they’d better get their rears to the house.


The big roomy pockets of aprons would hold plenty of clothes pins when grandma was hanging out wash on the line. Those pockets held a variety of other things the wearer wanted close at hand.


In the West, aprons were made from the all-important flour sack and they covered as much of the dress as possible. Cotton material was also used if it was available. The full aprons had a loop or opening that went over the head and held the bib in place. All aprons had fabric ties that went around the waist and tied in back. There were also half aprons that went only from the waist to the knees. Back in Victorian times and earlier, aprons were decorative and worn as actual clothing. In the 50’s and 60’s before they went out of style completely, aprons became merely a fashion statement when entertaining and were very frilly.


Whatever the use, aprons were around for a long time. It’s sad that no one wears them anymore. I have fond memories of my grandmother in her worn apron shelling peas on her front porch. And of my mother, standing at the stove preparing a meal. I loved those old aprons.


Do you have any memories of aprons that were worn by your grandmother, mother….or grandpa? I’d like to hear from you.

Notable and Quotable … Western Style!




“If he’d just pay me what he’s paying them to stop me from robbing him, I’d stop robbing him!”

That’s Paul Newman’s clever rationalization in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid!  Those two lovable bankrobbers had some classic lines and put smiles on our faces.

154912butch.jpg“Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?” 

And who could forget this exchange?

Butch Cassidy: Then you jump first.
Sundance Kid: No, I said.
Butch Cassidy: What’s the matter with you?
Sundance Kid: I can’t swim.
Butch Cassidy: Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you.

Now for a few more notable quotes from our favorite westerns!
“When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.” — The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

The public doesn’t give a damn about integrity. A town that won’t defend itself deserves no help.” — High Noonmv5bmje2ntg3ndiwof5bml5banbnxkftztywnzmyntm5__v1__cr00353353_ss100_clint-eastwood.jpg

 “Are you gonna pull those pistols or whistle Dixie?” — The Outlaw Josey Wales

“There’s always a man faster on the draw than you are, and the more you use a gun, the sooner you’re gonna run into that man.” —
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

“People scare better when they’re dying.” (Henry Fonda, Once Upon a Time in the West)

“If God didn’t want them sheared, he wouldn’t have made them sheep.” (Eli Wallach, The Magnificent Seven) 

mv5bmti4otiwodaxnl5bml5banbnxkftztywnzy2nza5__v1__cr00310310_ss90_.jpg“I come close to killing you a couple of times when we were younger. It saddens me I didn’t.” (John Wayne, McLintock)  “Since you haven’t learned to respect your elders, maybe you’ll learn to respect your betters!” (John Wayne, Big Jake)

“Men are gonna get killed here today, Sue, and I’m gonna kill ’em. ” (Kevin Costner, Open Range)

See if you can guess who said this:

1.”A cows nothing but a lot of trouble tied up in a leather bag.”

A.  Gene Autry
B.  Clint Eastwood
C.  John Wayne

D.  Steve McQueen

 What movie did this quote come from?

2.”Man’s got a right to protect his property and his life, and we ain’t lettin’ no rancher or his lawman take either. A.  Open Range
B.  High Noon
C.  Stagecoach
D.  Quigley, Down Under

3. What female star said this, “”If you weren’t the Sheriff, I’d call one.”

A.  Maureen O’Hara
B.  Raquel Welch
C.  Sharon Stone
D.  Dale Evans

I’ll come back later in the day with those answers!  Make your guess and check back, unless you’re sure
you know!  And tell me, do you have a favorite quote from television or movie stars?  A book?  Who is your favorite notable quotable cowboy?

25683611western-weddings.jpgWestern Weddings on Sale now in Bookstores and online.


Romancing the Old Classic Movies

I love classic movies, but not just any classics.  Of course, I love westerns, but even more than that, I love a really good old-fashioned romantic comedy.  So much so, that I’ve started a collection of DVD’s of Cary  Grant, Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Clark Cable and James Garner movies to name a few of my favorites.   imageshappened-cover.jpg

One movie I’ve enjoyed over and over again is It Happened One Night  With Claudette Colbert playing a spoiled rich heiress on the run and Clark Cable playing a ambitious journalist out to land the biggest story of his career,you have the makings of a first-class romance.  The thing I love about this movie is that nothing really is as it seems – the heiress is rebelling against her wealthy father and is not really in love with the man she’s running to meet.  Our journalist (Clark Gable) pretends to be a traveling man, and though recognizes the heiress immediately getting on a bus, he  doesn’t let on and follows her in search of  groundbreaking headlines. He wants an inside exclusive.   Needless to say, Peter Warne’s disdain for Ellie Andrews changes during the course of their journey and we see such amazing character development between the two and even they refuse to recognize it for what it is, until almost too late. 

The dynamics of this romance set the standards for all the romances to come.  It was so cleverly written that to this day, I recall some scenes and still laugh out loud.  Each time I watch the movie, I find something new, something I imageshitchhiking1.jpgdidn’t pick up on from my last viewing and that’s always a treat.   It’s a feel-good, wonderfully plotted story that leaves the viewer wanting to come back for more.To your right is a picture of Peter giving Ellie a lesson in “hitchhiking.”   I’m smiling as I write this because his three attempts have failed much to his chagrin and now Ellie turns the tables and shows him that her method works the best!  

imagesblanket-scene.jpgTo your left is a picture of the classic “blanket” scene.  The two have to spend the night together in a motel, and Peter sets up a clothesline with a blanket separating them for their night’s sleep.  Needless to say, neither gets much sleep that night with thoughts of the other – finally recognizing their love.  Hopeful and broke, Peter gets an idea and in the morning Ellie finds him gone and thinking he’s left her for good, she retreats back to her father and her opulent lifestyle.  You just have to see this black and white movie to learn the outcome.  The ending to this story leaves you with a smile and wanting more.

 It Happened One Night won 5 Academy Awards in 1931 – Best Picture, Best Director (Frank Capra) , Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay.  It’s a feat that hadn’t been repeated until 1975 with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and then 1991 with Silence of the Lambs

Some other of my favorites include Houseboat, Pillow Talk, Send Me No Flowers, Operation Petticoat, The Thrill of it All and Father Goose and That Touch of Mink. imagestht-touch-of-mink.jpgimages-pillow-talk.jpg

Times have surely changed.   Still and all, the last movies I saw weren’t There Will Be Blood or Michael Clayton.  They were 27 Dresses and Fool’s Gold.   I need my romantic fix and even though these were pretty good movies, they don’t compare to the classics.  Do you love old romantic comedies?  Which are your favorites?  I’d really love to hear about it.

In honor of romance lovers favorite holiday, Valentine’s Day, I’ll be giving away one book each to 2 winners today to help celebrate romance.  I’ll post the winners at the end of the day, Pacific standard time.  You may have your choice of my current Desire, The Corporate Raider’s Revenge (Romance Reviews Today’s Perfect 10) for January or March’s Taming The Texan,  garnering Romantic Times Magazine’s K.I.S.S. hero (Knight in Shining Silver) for Clint Hayworth. 

Happy Trails and Happy Reading!


Those Leading Ladies on the Western Screen

Elizabeth Lane’s post last week on sidekicks got me to thinking about the women who made their cowboys look good on television and film.   Like Elizabeth said, ‘A good sidekick is a real gem.’  

Well, I figure aamandablake.jpg good woman’s gotta be just about priceless.

How about Amanda Blake?  We knew her as Kitty Russell on Gunsmoke.   She was only 27 years old when she took on the role, and for 20 years she enjoyed her reign as a household name.  Gunsmoke was the longest running Western ever.   As far as I knew, she and Matt Dillon never kissed, but boy, I sure hoped they would.gunsmoke.jpg

Perhaps it’s not surprising with a reign that long, that she tired of the role, saying, “God, if I have to put on that damn bustle and those curls one more time, I’m gonna snap.  Nineteen years is a hell of a long time for someone to be stuck behind a bar.”

Seems those words came back to haunt her.  Her career faltered after that (as did the show, which was cancelled the next year). 

She married five times, was a longtime heavy smoker who underwent oral cancer surgery, then had to have therapy to regain her ability to talk.  Her fourth husband was openly bisexual and died of AIDS; she in turn died of AIDS complications in 1989 at the age of 60.

And then there was Linda Cristal.  Remember her?  She played Victoria Montoya Cannon on High Chaparral (loved that show!).  Beautiful and flamboyant, she had a turbulent childhood.  Though born in Argentina, her family was exiled to Uruguay due to her father’s involvement in a political dispute.  Tragically, her parents were killed in a car craslindac.jpgh in 1947.  The crash was billed as a suicide pact as a result of her mother becoming comatose from lack of insulin and her father’s distress from his inability to support hishighchap.jpg family while in exile.

Like Amanda Blake, Linda married five times, and despite her beauty, her luck ran bad with men.  Her first marriage lasted 5 days, her second 11 months, her third 6 years, her fourth ( ? Well, I’m not sure but she married him in 1968 and had husband #5 in 1972.)  She enjoyed her tenure on High Chaparral, claiming she ‘got along with all of the cast members because I was the only woman, and that made it easier.’

Today, she is retired and spends her time between several homes.

Here’s one to jog your memories.  Gail Davis.  She played Annie Oakley on television and became well-known for her signature pigtails and pistols.  Weighing all of 95 lbs. and reachgaildavis.jpging only 5 ft. 2 ins., she got her start in a supporting role with Roy Rogers, then went on to appear in well over 30 films, all but three which were westerns.  She appeared with Gene Autry in 14 films.  She was a great trick rider and shot and once commented, “I’ll be Annie Oakley for the rest of my born days.”  I think she was right.

After she left the entertainment business, she toured western film shows and memorabilia festivals.  She died from cancer in 1997.  In 2004, she was inducted posthumously into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

Inger Stevens.  Ah, doesn’t that face bring you back?  She had a rough life, though, being born in Sweden and starting out as an often-ill and insecure child.  She left home at age 16, headed to NYC and began a life in show business. ingerstevens.jpg

She was best known for her leading role in the television series, The Farmer’s Daughter, but she landed roles on Bonanza and in Hang ‘Em High with Clint Eastwood.  She had numerous affairs with Hollywood’s leading men, including Bing Crosby and Burt Reynolds, then committed suicide in 1970 by flinging herself through a glass screen while gripped in the throes of an overdose of drugs.

How sad is that?

Now, I’m wondering – Why do we have this fascination with movie stars?  Even more, why were/are their lives often turbulent?  Why do they have commitment issues? 

How do you think you’d like a life in the limelight?  Maybe the money and glamour would be worth it.   Or not.  Is it possible a normal childhood would shield a person from a high-profile life?  Help them commit to one man as a forever mate?

Any ideas?  I’d love to hear them!


gunsmoke-dvd-dir.jpgRemember Gunsmoke?  The intro music with Matt Dillon on his galloping horse?  Miss Kitty and Doc and Chester and Festus and all the fine folks in Dodge?

Unless you’re a lot younger than I am, chances are this show was part of your life.  Not only was Gunsmoke (1955-1975) TV’s longest running Western, it was also television’s longest running prime-time series with continuing characters. In total, 233 half-hour episodes and 400 hour episodes were filmed.

Gunsmoke was set in Dodge City, Kansas, between 1872, when the Santa Fe Railroad reached town, and 1885, when local farmers forced the end of the Texas cattle drives along the Western Trail. Dodge City, known as the “Queen of the Cow Towns,” the “Wicked Little City,” the “Gomorrah of the Plains,” had a reputation as a hostile, lawless town where the “fastest gun” ruled. As the opening of the show proclaimed: “Around Dodge City and in the territory on west, there’s just one way to handle the killers and the spoilers and that’s with a U.S. Marshal and the smell of gunsmoke.”

The fictional marshall, Matt Dillon, was modeled after the real lawmen who “tamed” (or at least kept a lid on) Dodge City: US Deputy Marshall Wyatt Earp (1848-1929), Sheriff Bat Masterson (1856-1921), Sheriff Bill Tilghman (1854-1924), and Sheriff Charlie Bassett.Gunsmoke began on radio in 1952 with William Conrad reading the part of Matt Dillon (I actually remember this great radio version).  The series was so successful that it was adapted for TV in 1955.  Conrad, who had a fine radio voice, was a portly man who didn’t fit the visual image of Matt Dillon, so another actor had to be found.  There is some dispute as to whether John Wayne was offered the role of Marshal Dillon, but he is certainly the one who recommended the quiet, six-foot-seven James Arness, brother of Peter Graves.  Arness proved to be the perfect choice.  Wow, what a man!

Other actors rounded out the cast.  Remember them? 
Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake) ran the Longbranch Saloon where Sam (Glenn Strange) was the bartender; Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver) and Festus Hagen (Ken Curtis) were the deputies.
Does anybody remember who played Doc?

The romance between Matt and Miss Kitty was clearly evident, but they didn’t so much as hold hands (hey, this was the Fifties).  And the likely goings on upstairs in the Longbranch weren’t even mentioned.   All in all, Gunsmoke was a sanitized version of what the real West must have been like.  But who’s complaining?  It was so much fun.  And so romantic.

Do you have a favorite Gunsmoke episode?  What was your favorite TV Western series?  I’d love to hear.

Behind the Books: My First Sales


I had been writing and submitting for several years before I joined an RWA chapter and a local writers group. With the help of other more experienced writers, workshops and conferences, I learned and grew. Those first early projects are still in boxes in a storeroom. I truly didn’t know what I was doing. After studying Dwight Swain and garnering the advice of great ladies like Diane Wicker Davis (Avon) and Barbara Andrews (Ecstasy – and Silhouette as Jennifer Drew with her daughter Pam Hanson) and also being with a critique group, the first book I wrote start to finish was Rain Shadow.

At a Minneapolis conference, after spending the entire morning in the bathroom doing self-talk, I pitched the book at my first editor appointment. The editor asked to see it and later rejected it saying my hero was too unsympathetic.

I had submitted to agents about that same time, and one called me, saying with certainty, “I can sell this book for you.” I was thrilled, of course, and she did indeed sell it to Harlequin Historical. Thirty-some books later she is still my agent. After some initial quibbling over my title, it stuck and RAIN SHADOW was released in 1993. Back then HH did what they called March Madness and introduced two new authors each March. I loved the cover, loved it loved it. Loved the Wild West Show on the front. Adored her fringe jacket. Blew up the image and admired it. The art department used the pictures I’d sent them, and even her gun is in perfect detail.

Question from shopper at one of my very first book signings: “Is this you on the cover?”

Note to self: At all times be prepared to answer very odd questions graciously.

My second sale followed right on the heels of the first because it was a book I’d written previously. It had been shopped around other publishers without success. My new editor, who continued to be my editor for the next ten years, agreed to look at HEAVEN CAN WAIT, then asked me to cut a hundred pages and take out a subplot. Which I did with a lot of help from my critique group. It’s difficult to be that brutal to your own work. The story was indeed better for that revision. So the books came out one after the other, but not in the correct chronological order, story-wise. The villainess in Heaven Can Wait is the dead wife of the hero in Rain Shadow. So whenever I talk to people who will be reading them for the first time, I suggest they read them in the correct order.

And here’s something I’ve never mentioned before. The subplot I cut from Heaven Can Wait was the thread of Franz and Annette trying to have a baby. Over the years I’ve thought a few times about giving them their own story thus completing tales of the three brothers, but I’d have to go out of chronological order again, and for some reason that bugs me. Besides they were too happy together and supportive of each other…what would be the conflict? Wait, the story could be chronologically correct if it happened years after the last and their marriage had fallen apart because of their inability to conceive. Hmm, sounds like a lot of angst — wonder if I could handle that. <g> (I thrive on writing angst! Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em FEEL is my goal!)

So there you have the inside scoop on my first two sales and how they came about. It’s still exciting to see a new cover for each current release. It’s always a thrill to know that the stories I’ve worked so hard on are bringing pleasure to readers. As readers ourselves, writers know the delight of finding a new author, of becoming lost in a story, of falling in love with appealing characters. Being able to write those stories for others is a joy and a satisfaction beyond measure.

What we remember when we think back on a story isn’t always the specific details of the plot or even the character names. What we remember is how the book made us feel. If we were swept away, excited, intrigued, riveted, saddened, we recall those feelings. In an earlier blog, when I asked about the first romances you read and loved and you listed so many great ones, I’ll bet you remembered the way those stories affected you on an emotional level.

Which stories won places on your keeper shelf by involving your emotions?