The Transcontinental Railroad

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. According to my This Day In History Calendar, today is the 152nd anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad (May 10, 1869), an event that had a profound effect on everything from commerce to the environment of this country.

So today I thought I’d share a bit of history and trivia around this event.

First a timeline of key events:

  • 1832 – Dr. Hartwell Carver made his first push for construction of a railroad to connect the east coast to the west coast. That proposal didn’t make it through, but Dr. Carver didn’t give up and over the next several years continued to write articles supporting his proposal.
  • 1853 – Congress commissions a survey of 5 possible routes. These were completed by 1855
  • 1862 – The Pacific Railroad Bill signed by Abraham Lincoln. The act offered government incentives to assist “men of talent, men of character, men who are willing to invest” in developing the nation’s first transcontinental rail line.
  • 1863 (Jan) – The Central Pacific Railroad breaks ground in Sacramento. They lay the first rail in October of that same year.
  • 1863 (Dec) – The Union Pacific Railroad breaks ground in Omaha. But because of the Civil War it isn’t until July of 1865 that the first rail on the eastern end is laid.
  • 1869 – Transcontinental Railroad completed

Now on to some other Interesting facts and trivia:

  • The railroad line followed a route similar to that used as the central route of the Pony Express primarily because this route had been proven navigable in winter.
  • There were two main railroad companies involved in constructing the historic line. The Central Pacific Railroad received the contract to construct the line from Sacramento to points east. The Union Pacific Railroad was awarded the contract  to forge the path from Council Bluffs, Iowa west. As noted above, construction began in 1862 and in the early days the place where the two legs would meet up and become one was not decided.
  • As the project neared completion, President Ulysses Grant set Promontory Point Utah as the place where the two rails would meet. On May 10, 1869, the final spike was driven and the Transcontinental Railroad was deemed complete.
  • The final spike driven is often called the Golden Spike. However the spike was actually gold plated, a solid gold spike would have been much too soft to drive into the rail.
  • The total length of the rail line was 1,776 miles. 1086 miles was laid by the Union Pacific crew and 690 miles by Central Pacific. At the time of its completion it was one of the longest contiguous railroad in the world
  • The chosen route required 19 tunnels to be drilled through the mountains. This was no easy task during this time period and it managed to push forward barely a foot per day. Even when  nitroglycerin was introduced to blast through the rock it only increased their progress to 2 feet per day.
  • When completed, the Transcontinental Railroad allowed passengers to cross the country in just one week as opposed to the four to six months it had taken before.
  • The fare to travel from Omaha to San Francisco was $65 for a third class bench seat, $110 for a second class seat and $136 if you wanted to ride first class in a Pullman sleeping car.

And there you have it, a short and sweet lesson on the Transcontinental Railway. So what about you, do you have any experience with trains and railways you’d like to share? If not, would you like to ride a train someday?

My only personal experience was on a vacation to the Grand Canyon – we road the train from Williams AZ to the south rim, a trip of about 2 hours. It was a really fun addition to our vacation experience.

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a choice of any book from my backlist.

 

The Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

Who doesn’t love the humble but oh-so-yummy grilled cheese sandwich.  Its ooey-gooey goodness not only warms our insides but (at least for me) brings back warm memories of childhood around the dinner table. And, according to my National Day Calendar, April 12 is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, so today I thought I’d offer up some history and fun facts related to this well-loved comfort food.

  • It turns out, the idea of taking bread and cheese and heating them together into a quick and tasty meal goes at least as far back as the ancient Romans. However, the grilled cheese sandwich as we know it today is credited to James L. Craft, who created a method to keep cheese from spoiling quickly. With the advent of commercially available sliced bread in the 1920s he decided it was a match made in culinary heaven!
  • Early versions of the grilled cheese sandwich were made open-faced with only one slice of bread and the cheese was usually grated.
  • Schools eagerly adopted the grilled cheese sandwich, more often than not pairing it with tomato soup. It was a cheap and tasty meal option to fulfill dietary requirements for both protein and vitamin C.
  • Prior to the 1960s the grilled cheese sandwich was often referred to as a “cheese dream”.
  • In 1994 Diana Duyser, a work from home jewelry designer, took a bite from her grilled cheese sandwich then stopped when she saw an image of the Virgin Mary on the toasted portion of her sandwich. She kept the rest of thee sandwich for ten years then listed it on eBay. The winning bid was $2800, placed by Golden Palace, an online casino.
  • The New York restaurant Serendipity 3 holds the record for producing the most expensive edible grilled cheese sandwich. The bread contains champagne and gold flakes and the sandwich includes truffle butter and a rare Caciocavallo Podolico cheese. The cost of this sandwich in 2017 was $214.
  • In 2006 competitive eater Joey Chestnut set a record by eating 47 grilled cheese sandwiches in 10 minutes.

Some fun notes from various surveys:

  • The most popular pairing of the grilled cheese sandwich is with tomato soup.
  • The US cities that rank highest on the “grilled cheese lovers” scale (according to UberEats) are Baltimore, San Diego and Cincinnati.
  • By one estimate, an online search for “how to make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich” will yield over one million results.
  • According to a 2018 market study, Americans consume over 2 billion grilled cheese sandwiches a year.
  • The most popular cheeses for grilled cheese sandwiches (in the US) are American and cheddar.
  • Another survey reports that grilled cheese lovers are not only more generous than their non-grilled cheese lover counterparts but they are also more adventurous and travel more.
  • Food & Wine ranks the grilled cheese sandwich from San Francisco’s The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen as the tastiest. The chef is an MIT engineer named Heidi Gibson.

 

And of course this post wouldn’t be complete without a  recipe so here is a version for my own personal favorite grilled cheese sandwich

Ingredients:

  • Pepper jack cheese – a thick slab or a generous heaping of shredded cheese
  • 2 slices of bread – whatever you have on hand will work but I prefer sourdough
  • Butter seasoned with a touch of garlic salt and cracked pepper to taste
  • Brown mustard

Directions

  • Preheat your skillet on a low heat – I like to use a well-seasoned iron skillet but a regular skillet with a bit of butter will do
  • Spread seasoned butter on one side of each piece of bread (slather it on, don’t skimp!)
  • Add a very thin layer of brown mustard to the unbuttered side of ONE slice of bread (just a enough to flavor but not overpower)
  • Place the cheese on the unbuttered side of one slice of bread
  • Place the bread and cheese, open-faced style, in the skillet with the bread side down and cover for a few minutes, allowing the cheese to melt. Once the cheese starts to melt add the second slice of bread and cook uncovered until both sides are a nice golden brown.
  • Plate and Enjoy!

So let’s discuss. Is there any of the points above that surprised you? Do you like grilled cheese sandwiches? Do you have a favorite recipe?  Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for winners’ choice of any of my backlist books.

 

The Big Cheese

Hello everyone,  Winnie Griggs here. Happy Monday.

A while back I read a little historical footnote that in 1804 President Thomas Jefferson attended a public party at the Senate where an enormous loaf of bread, dubbed the “mammoth loaf” was part of the food offering.

If you know anything at all about me you know I couldn’t just let this intriguing bit of information go without digging into it further so of course I did some research. And oh boy, did I ever find out more than I bargained for – in fact in the process I came across an even more intriguing bit of trivia.

It seems that enormous loaf was baked to go with a mammoth wheel of cheese that President Jefferson had received as a gift two years earlier.  And for the record, I’m using the word mammoth deliberately, because that’s how these items were described at the time.  I found a notation that stated Americans of this period were enamored with the term due to their fascination with the then recent discovery of the skeleton of a giant woolly mammoth in the state of New York.

This massive wheel of cheese was the brain child of John Leland, the Elder of a Baptist  congregation made up of the staunchly Republican citizens of a farming community located in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. The goal was to recognize and commemorate Jefferson’s long-standing devotion to religious freedoms. Leland asked every member of his congregation who owned even one cow to bring all the milk and/or curd produced on a particular day to a local cider mill.

It was reported that the milk from about 900 cows went into the making of the cheese and that the cider press they used measured six feet in diameter.  The final product, once cured, measured more than 4 feet in diameter, 13 feet in circumference and 17 inches high. I read one report that said it weighed in at 1,235 pounds and another that reported 1325 pounds but in either case it was BIG. In fact it was so big it couldn’t be safely moved the entire distance on wheels. The logistics in and of themselves were interesting – it traveled by sleigh from the town to the Hudson River, from there by barge to New York City. Then it was moved to a sloop which carried it as far as Baltimore. The final leg of the trip to Washington D.C was accomplished via a wagon pulled by six horses. All in all, the approximate 500 mile trip took over three weeks to accomplish.

President Jefferson praised the people who had donated the extraordinary gift for the for their skill and generosity   Because he believed he should refuse gifts while in office, he paid Leland $200 for the cheese.

The cheese lasted for quite some time as it was gradually consumed at various White House functions over the next couple of years.  Finally, on March 26, 1804, the President attended the above-mentioned party designed to rally support for a naval war with the Barbary States. A Naval baker created a huge loaf of bread to accompany the remnants of the mammoth wheel of cheese as well as large quantities of roast beef and alcohol.  It’s assumed that the last of the cheese  was consumed during the event.  An alternate theory is that after this party, the remnants were disposed of in the Potomac River.

Is this bit of historical trivia something you already knew about?  And why do you think people are fascinated by things of an unusual size?  Is it perhaps the novelty of it all or is it something else entirely?

The Grand Canyon

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.  According to my This Day In History calendar, today marks the 113th anniversary of the day Teddy Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a national monument. I myself have visited the park twice, once in 2012 and once in 2017, and can personally attest to the fact that the word awesome fails to do it justice. 

You can find accounts and photos from those trips at the these two links:

LINK:   My First Trip To The Southwest

LINK:   My Second Trip To Southwest

 

And here are some trivia and fun facts about the Grand Canyon.

  • The park is massive in size.
    • To give you some idea of its scale, here are some various types of measurements:
      • It’s 1,904 square miles (1.2 million acres) – the state of  Rhode Island is only around 1,212 square miles.
      • The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and 18 miles wide at its widest point. And at its narrowest point it stretches 4 miles. However that’s less than a fifth of the Colorado River’s total length of 1,450 miles,
    • Though it’s only about 10 miles as the crow flies between the North and South rim visitor services centers, there are 211 road miles and takes more than four hours to drive from one to the other.
    • Though the Colorado River has a maximum depth of 85 feet, it drops in elevation nearly 2000 ft as it travels through the Grand Canyon.

  • One really cool thing about the Grand Canyon is that it actually creates its own weather.
    • From the highest points at the rim of the canyon to its lowest point, the temperature can change by more than 25 degrees. That’s because sudden changes in elevation have tremendous impacts on temperature and precipitation. So whatever weather you’re experiencing could be very different based on your actual location in the park. The coldest, wettest weather station in the region is on the north rim at the Bright Angel Ranger Station while 8 miles away at the depths of the gorge near Phantom Ranch, is where the hottest and driest can usually be found.

  • The canyon is full of hidden caves.
    While only the Cave of Domes is open to the public there are an estimated 1,000 caves within the canyon itself and only 335 have been recorded.

  • Depending on how one measures size (length, depth, width, etc) there are several other canyons that are larger, among them are the Cotahuasi Canyon in Peru, the Kali Gandaki Gorge in Nepal and the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon in Tibet. 

 

  • There is some debate about the age of the Grand Canyon.
    For a long time scientists believed the Colorado River started carving out the canyon six million years ago. Then, in 2012, a study theorized this erosion process may actually go back 70 million years ago.
    It’s also believed that it’s likely that today’s Grand Canyon began as a number of smaller canyons but the scope of today’s canyon didn’t start taking its current shape until more recently.

  • Even though the Grand Canyon is fossil rich, you won’t find any dinosaur fossils among them. What you will find, however, includes diverse specimens that include ancient marine fossils from over 1 billion years ago as well as more recent land mammals that left their remains in canyon caves about 10,000 years ago.

  • The Grand Canyon offers one of the most visible examples of a worldwide geological phenomenon known as the Great Unconformity. The Great Unconformity refers to the fact that rock layers  that are estimated to be 250 million years old unaccountably sit directly on rocks that are 1.2 billion years old. It is a complete mystery as to what happened to the hundreds of millions of years of layers that should lie between them. 

  • The Canyon boasts about 91 species of mammals, 447 species of birds, 58 species of reptiles and 18 species of fish only five of which are native.
    • Several of these species are endangered, including the peregrine falcon, the California condor, the bald eagle, the southwestern willow flycatcher, the Ridgway’s rail, the humpback chub, the razorback sucker, and a species of snail, the Kanab ambersnail. There are also number of endangered plants that can be found there.
    • One interesting reptile, the Grand Canyon Pink Rattlesnake can only be found in the Grand Canyon. It’s one of six rattlesnake species that can be found in the park. The snake’s unusual color is an adaptation that allows it to blend into the surrounding rocks which makes it extra surprising when someone actually catches a glimpse of one.
    • Surprisingly though, even though the Grand canyon is home to dangerous animals such as snakes, Gila Monsters and big horn sheep, if you look at actual attacks on people, the most dangerous animal in the Grand Canyon is the innocuous-looking rock squirrel. Many visitors are bitten each year by this rodent than any other animal, many while trying to take selfies with or feed this “vicious” critter.

  • There are interesting facts around trying to hike the Grand Canyon
    • Believe it or not more people have walked on the moon than have actually completed a continuous length-wise hike through than Grand Canyon. 
    • Hiking the Grand Canyon is not for the casual hiker. A reasonably fit hiker takes four to five hours to trek from the South Rim to the Colorado River and, as to be expected, much longer to make the return trip.
    • The hiking records are interesting. The best known times to make it by foot from the South rim to the North rim and back for women is 7 hours, 28 minutes and 58 seconds and for men it’s  5 hours, 55 minutes and 20 seconds.
    • Trying to hike this area when you aren’t adequately prepared can have serious consequences. About 250 people have to be rescued from inside the Grand Canyon on average every year. According to park rangers, one of the biggest mistake many hikers make is to not carry enough water with them. Of course underestimating the effort involved and their own fitness to undertake the effort plays a part as well.

  • It’s been shown that the air at the Grand Canyon is among the cleanest air in the United States.

  • Like a sculptor, the Colorado River, along with other environmental elements like win and precipitation, is still working on shaping the Grand Canyon, though this is being done at a pace that makes a snail look speedy.

  • The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) owes its existence to the Grand Canyon. Apparently it was common in the 1950s for commercial planes to take detours that  routed them over the ark to give their passengers some breathtaking views. Unfortunately, in 1956, two  planes collided with tragic results – there were no survivors. As a result the federal government moved to create the FAA. 
  • Seven years after the Grand Canyon was established as a national park, 37,745 visitors were counted. In 2019 they had 5.97 million visitors, making it second only to Great Smoky Mountains National Park as the most visited national park.

  • Did you know the Grand Canyon National Park has a physical address? It’s 20 South Entrance Road, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023.    However, if you want to send mail thee, the park’s mailing address is P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

There’s a whole lot more I could tell you but this is probably enough for one post.

So was there anything in this list that surprised you? Have you ever visited the Grand Canyon yourself? What were your impressions?

Laura Ingalls Wilder Trivia and Fun Facts

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

Today marks the 63rd anniversary of the death of Laura Ingalls Wilder and in her honor I thought I’d share a bit of trivia about her life and accomplishments.

 

  • Laura was 65 when the first of her Little House books, Little House in the Big Woods, was published. It was 11 years later, when she was 76, that the 8th and final book in the series was published.
  • Laura received her teaching certificate at age 15 and taught in one room schoolhouses until she married Almanzo Wilder at age 18.
  • The Little House books were not her first paid writing accomplishments. At age 42 she went to work for the St. Louis Farmer as their poultry columnist. She eventually went on to write columns for the Missouri Ruralist, McCall’s Magazine and The Country Gentleman. In order to give her writing more credibility with male readers, her columns were published under the name A.J.Wilder.

 

 

  • As a young child, she lived through a devastating invasion of over 3.5 TRILLION locusts. It was one of the worst natural disasters the country had ever faced to that date, causing an estimated $116 billion worth of damage and causing near starvation for many settlers,, including her own family. The culprits, the Rocky Mountain locusts went extinct about 1902, though no one knows the reason why.
  • Laura had some interesting leaves on her family tree. One ancestor, Martha Ingalls Allen Carrier, was hanged as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials.  She was also related to Franklin Delano Roosevelt through her great grandmother, Margaret Delano Ingalls.

 

  • She was once told that writing for children was a waste of time. I’m so glad she ignored that advice! Her Little House books have remained in print continuously since the 1930s and the series has sold over 60 million copies and have been published in 26 languages.
  • Laura received lots of fan mail over the course of her writing life. After her Little House series took off she averaged about 50 pieces of mail per day. In fact, on her last birthday she received over 1000 bits of correspondence.
  • The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award was established in 1954 by the American Library Association. Its purpose was to honor authors and illustrators whose children’s books have made a major impact on children’s literature. Laura was, of course, the first recipient. Since then, other recipients have included Theodor Geisal (Dr. Seuss), Maurice Sendak and Beverly Cleary. However, the organization announced in June 2018 that it planned to change the name of the award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award due to the way Laura portrayed Native Americans in her books. In their statement the organization added this caveat: “Changing the name of the award, or ending the award and establishing a new award, does not prohibit access to Wilder’s works or suppress discussion about them. Neither option asks or demands that anyone stop reading Wilder’s books, talking about them, or making them available to children.”

  • Prior to the establishment of her namesake award, Laura had already won Newberry Honors on four of her Little House books.
  • A fun little bit of Laura Ingalls Wilder trivia – In the summer of 2017, Laura (in her young pig-tailed girl persona) was sculpted in butter at the Iowa State Fair in honor of the 150th anniversary of her birth.
  • Laura died on February 10, 1957, just 3 day after her 90th birthday. She was survived by her daughter and only child, Rose. Rose never had any children of her own, but Roger MacBride whom she met when he was a teenager and who later became her lawyer and literary agent, became her heir. He inherited an estate  that has a present day value of over $100 million and was responsible for licensing the television rights to the Little House books.

So there you have it, some interesting tidbits from the life of one of the most beloved of children authors. Were any of these new to you? Do you have some fun facts of your own to add? Have you read the books yourself?  

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for your choice of any book from my backlist.

 

Happy Labor Day!

Hi! Winnie Griggs here.

Since today is Labor Day, I thought I’d reprise a post from a couple of years ago that has some history and trivia surrounding this holiday. And since I’m cheating a bit, to make it up to you all, I’ll also give away a copy of a 2-in-1 volume of two of my titles that Love inspired is releasing this month (more info on that below)

The U.S. is not the only or even the first country to set aside an observance for the working class. The observance, as we know it, originated in Canada in the 1870s. A number of European countries have May Day celebrations that have a similar focus.

As for who initially proposed Labor Day in this country, opinions are split. Most historians consider Peter McGuire the Father of Labor Day in the U.S. He was an Irish-American cabinet maker who was also the general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. But there is another camp who contends it was actually a different McGuire – a machinist named Matthew McGuire – who was responsible.

Without labor nothing prospers.
~Sophocles

The first Labor Day celebration in the U.S. was celebrated on September 5, 1882 (which was a Tues. by the way, not a Monday). It was held in New York City’s Union Square and was designed to ease tensions with city workers after numerous strikes and outbreaks of violence.

The first Labor Day parade was held the following year in September of 1883. More than 10,000 workers took an unpaid holiday in order to participate. The event was in actuality a rally of laborers calling for an 8 hour work day (at this time 12 hour work days were the norm).

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.
~Ovid
Though the movement started in the east, the first state to declare Labor Day a state Holiday was Oregon. From there it moved to Colorado, New York and Massachusetts. So you can say it had a west to east progression.

It was 12 years after that first celebration, in June of 1894, that Labor Day became a national holiday. Grover Cleveland was President at the time. He was a staunch opponent of organized labor groups but he actually pushed hard for this in an attempt to quell the unrest that was erupting in labor riots across the nation.

By the time Labor Day was declared a federal holiday, it was already a state holiday in thirty states.

If all the cars in the United States were placed end to end,
it would probably be Labor Day Weekend.
~Doug Larson

Other Fun Facts:

  • The old-school rule about not wearing white after labor day is thought to have to do with the fact that in earlier years, the wealthy wore white linen suite and Panama hats as they escaped to fancy summer resorts. When they returned to the sooty, dusty, grimier cities of the work-a-day world, they once again donned their drabber clothing.
  • The first Waffle House restaurant opened for business on Labor Day in 1955.
  • Once touted as a day to celebrate the working class, Labor Day has taken on the added significance of being a day that marks the following milestones:
    • The end of summer
    • The beginning of the school year
    • The unofficial kickoff of the NFL season
    • And, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, hot dog season begins on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day.
  • According to U.S. Highway accident stats, Labor Day weekend is one of the most dangerous weekends to be on the road. The likely cause – many high schoolers and collegians consider it the last party weekend before heading back to school.
  • Labor Day ranks third in the list of popular days for barbecuing, right behind Independence Day and Memorial Day.

There you have it, the highlights I discovered when digging through the facts and lore surrounding Labor Day.

So were any of these footnotes new to you? And do you do anything special to celebrate the day?

 

Giveaway!

I’ll be selecting one person from among those who comment to day to receive a copy of the below book:

 

A Baby Between Them

For two months, Nora Murphy has cared for the abandoned infant she found on their Boston-bound ship. Settled now in Faith Glen, Nora tells herself she’s happy. She has little Grace, and a good job as housekeeper to Sheriff Cameron Long. Cam has also closed himself off to dreams of a family. 
When the unthinkable occurs, it will take all their faith to reach a new future together.

The Proper Wife

Eli Reynolds knows what he wants in a wife, and flighty Sadie Lassiter couldn’t be further from the mark. For one thing, he has his nine-year-old sister’s welfare to consider. But when bad weather strands Eli and Sadie together, he sees a new side to her character. Her faith is true, and she’s filled with humor and sweetness. Could Eli take a chance on happiness and take Sadie as his bride?

To learn more or get your copy, check HERE

Tidbits and Texas Laws

I thought it’d be fun to look at some of the laws that are still on the books today.  Here are a few interesting ones I found in my file.  All are Texas laws and I added the town or area of Texas it’s applicable to. Many are statewide and I’m sure some have been amended.

• Temple, Texas: Cattle thieves may be hanged on the spot. No one may ride a horse and buggy through the town square, but they can ride their horse in the saloon.

• The capital of Texas, Austin: Wire cutters cannot be carried in your pocket.

• San Antonio, Texas: It is illegal for both sexes to flirt or respond to flirtation using the eyes and/or hands. It is also illegal to urinate on the Alamo.

• Texarkana: Owners of horses may not ride them at night without tail lights.

• It is illegal to shoot a buffalo from the second story of a hotel. It’s illegal to milk another’s cow.

• In Kingsville, there is a law against two pigs having sex on the city’s airport property. Why just the city’s airport property? Don’t ask me!

• It’s illegal to dust any public building with a feather duster. 

• In El Paso, churches, hotels, halls of assembly, stores, markets, banking rooms, railroad depots, and saloons are required to provide spittoons “of a kind and number to efficiently contain expectorations into them.

• In other parts of Texas you can’t land an airplane on the beach, throw trash from an airplane, or inhale fumes from model glue, not to mention you must obtain permission from the director of parks and recreation before getting drunk in any city park. This is where “Don’t Mess With Texas” comes in loud and clear!

• Texas is a common law state, so you can be legally married by publicly introducing a person as your husband or wife three times. So my advice to you, be careful what you say when you have your snoot full in a Texas honky tonk.

• Port Arthur: Obnoxious odors may not be emitted while in an elevator.

Some of these laws have been changed or strengthened, especially involving drinking and driving, while some like having wire cutters in your pocket or shooting buffalo from a second floor window of a hotel remains in full force and effect. So every time I look at the new Marriott being built, I wonder if they’ll add that law to the notice they put on the inside of your hotel room? I might just have to call them and find out.

But the best law of all: A cowman cannot tuck his pants into one boot unless he owns ten or more head of cattle. I have no idea what the purpose of this law might have been. Do you?

Are there any old laws that are unique to your part of the country that you’d like to share with us today?

 

To one lucky reader who leaves a comment, I’ll give them their choice of an eBook or an autographed book of my newest Kasota Springs Romance Out of a Texas Night.

 

Let’s Talk Tea

Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

In my books, when company comes to visit, they are more  likely going to be offered a cup of tea rather than a cup of coffee. I suppose this is because I’m a tea lover myself and am not much on coffee (which makes me pretty much an outlier among my south Louisiana family ? )

I enjoy experimenting with tea flavors – green, black rooibos, herbal, chais. Some of my favorites are Hartney’s Hot Spicy Cinnamon and Bigelow’s Vanilla Chai.  I also have a small collection of tea cups that I’ve collected – I’ve sprinkled images of some of them throughout this post.

* * * * * I’m a big fan of dragonflys – here are some cups that reflect that

Now for some trivia and fun facts related to tea:

  • Not only is tea delicious but it is actually good for you. One of the things contained in tea are polyphenols which are antioxidants that repair cells. Because of this, consuming tea might help our bodies fend off cardiovascular diseases, cancers, osteoporosis, diabetes mellitus and other maladies.
  • It is estimated that there a 1,500 different types of tea.
  • On a per capita basis, Ireland is the largest nation of tea drinkers. Great Britain comes in second
  • Approximately 85% of tea consumed in the United States is in the form of iced tea.
* * * These cups are some of the ones I received as gifts – my friends know me well 🙂
  • The United States imports over 519 million pounds of tea annually.
  • Tea is second only to water as the most widely consumed beverage worldwide.
  • The annual worldwide production of tea comes in at over 3 million tons.
  • Tieguanyin, an oolong tea, is the most expensive tea in the world at a cost of about  $1,500 a pound.

    * * * * * These belonged to my grandmother – I cherish them dearly
  • The United States invented both the tea bag and iced tea. Not everyone thinks the tea bag is a good thing as connoisseurs consider tea brewed from loose leaves to be richer in flavor.
  • A cup of brewed tea on average contains less than half the caffeine of the same amount of coffee.
  • The Twining family opened their teashop, the Golden Lyon, in 1717. That shop is still open today.

    * * * * *I like to collect mugs from places I’ve visited – here are some of my faves
  • If a scene calls for an actor to drink whisky, they usually substitute watered-down tea, which has the same look as whisky.
  • The action of tea leaves uncurling as hot water is poured over them is called “the agony of the leaves”.
  • Loose tea stays good for about two years if you keep it away from moisture and light. Tea bags, however, are only good for about six months before they begin losing their flavor.

    * * * * * And of course, as a Winnie The Pooh fan, I couldn’t pass these up
  • Black, oolong, green, and white tea all come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The difference comes in how the leaves are treated after they are harvested.
    For black tea, the leaves are left to ferment until they turn black, then dried and packaged.
    Oolong tea follows a similar process to black tea, but each individual stage in the process is not as long.
    Green tea isn’t put through a fermentation process, rather it is either steamed or pan fried.
    White tea is the least processed of the four. It is made from younger leaves that are usually only left to sun dry briefly before being prepared for packaging.

    * * * * * And finally, here are two of my favorite writer-related mugs
  • Herbal “teas” are technically not teas at all, but rather, something called a tisane.
  • Guinness World Records associated with tea (as of 2016)
    Largest Tea Bag – 551 pounds, 9.8 feet wide by 13 feet high.
    Largest Tea Cup – 10 feet tall by 8 feet wide
    Most Cups of Tea Made in One Hour – 1848 (made by a team of 12 individuals)

And finally, my favorite tea quote:
You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C.S.Lewis

So, are you a tea drinker? Do you have a favorite flavor? And did any of the above bits of trivia surprise you?

 

Where’s The (Hamburger) Beef

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

A while back I did a bit of research to see if it was possible for my 1892 heroine to serve a hamburger at her restaurant.  When I discovered that May, among other things, is National Hamburger Month (I love my National Observances Calendar!) I thought this would be the perfect time to share some of the history and trivia I discovered during my research.

First off, there have been meat patties, in various forms, for thousands of years.  But to get to the origin of what we now think of as the all-American hamburger is more difficult than you might think. During my research I came across a number of different claims for how that wonderful sandwich came about.

One of the earliest claims goes to Canton, Ohio natives Frank and Charles Menches.  They were food vendors at the 1885 Erie County Fair. According to the story, when the Menches ran out of their usual fare of pork sausage, out of desperation they substituted ground beef seasoned with coffee and brown sugar as well as other seasonings. The new fare proved to be a hit and they dubbed it the hamburger after the fair’s location in Hamburg, Ohio.

Another claim states the inventor was Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas.  It is said he first put a cooked ground beef patty between slices of bread in the late 1880s to accommodate customers who wanted something hearty but portable. According to locals, his claim is well documented. As the story goes, he eventually took his offering to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair where it was a big hit.

Yet another theory proposes that it was the creation of a German cook by the name of Otto Kuasw out of Hamburg, Germany. He created a popular sandwich for sailors that was comprised of a beef patty fried in butter, topped with a fried egg, and served between two buns. The story goes that the sailors who travelled between Hamburg and New York, would request a Hamburg style beef sandwich when dining in American restaurants.

Those claims, however, are disputed by proponents of Louis Lassen of New Haven, Connecticut.  Their story is that Lassen created the burger in 1900. The descendants of Lassen consider it a matter of family pride, and they have the Library of Congress backing up their claim.

There are many other very passionate claims about the hamburger’s origins, and to tell the truth, it was likely invented independently across the country by quite a number of individuals. One thing is true – several food vendors sold them during the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and from there it quickly spread across the country.

So the question that prompted my research, could my heroine serve hamburgers at her restaurant – was both yes and no. She wouldn’t be able to serve something called a hamburger, but she could serve a sandwich that has a main component of a beef patty

And here’s a bit of hamburger trivia for you:

  • During World War I, because of the food’s tie to the German city of Hamburg, the U.S. Government tried to change its name to the more patriotic-sounding Liberty Sandwiches.
  • White Castle, founded in Wichita, Kansas in 1921, holds the record for being the oldest hamburger chain. Their first burger sold for a nickel.
  • According to the Oxford English Dictionary, burger first came into use as an abbreviated form of hamburger in 1939
  • According to an AP report, in 2003 PETA (an animal rights group) offered officials of Hamburg , NY, $15,000 to change the name of their town to Veggieburg. They declined.
  • In 2012, cooks at the Black Bear Casino Resort in Carlton, Minnesota prepared what was then the largest burger on record.  It weighed in at just over a ton and then was topped with 52.5 pounds of tomatoes, 50 pounds of lettuce, 19 pounds of pickles, 60 pounds of onions, 40 pounds of cheese and 16.5 pounds of bacon.
    In July of 2017 that record was broken when 6 men in Pilsting Germany created a burger that weighed in at a little over 2,566 pounds.
  • 50 BILLION burgers are consumed in the United States each year.  If that quantity was laid end to end, they would circle the earth over 32 times!

  • The average American eats a hamburger 3 times a week.
  • Of all sandwiches sold globally, 60% are hamburgers.
  • McDonald’s sells 75+ burgers every SECOND.

As for me, my favorite burger is one that is grilled to medium well, topped with pepperjack cheese, bacon and bbq sauce and serve on a toasted sesame seed bun.

So tell me, did any of the above facts surprise you? And do you have a favorite way to have your burger prepared?

 

Mark Twain – Things you may not know

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

According to my This Day In History calendar, today is the 159th anniversary of the day Mark Twain received his steamboat pilot’s license. So in honor of that event I thought I’d offer up some trivia and favorite quotes from the author and humorist.

As most everyone knows, Mark Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, but did you know that as an infant, he wasn’t expected to live? He was born two months prematurely and was sickly and frail. It wasn’t until he was seven that his health turned around. He was the sixth of seven children.

His formal education ended when he was eleven. That was the year his father died and he left school to take a job as an apprentice printer at a local newspaper.

Before settling on Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens tried out several other pseudonyms, among them were Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, W. Epaminondas Adrastus Blab, Sergeant Fathom, and Rambler.

In addition to his other talents, Mark Twain was an inventor. He held 3 patents all total. He invented a garment fastener strap that he intended for use on vests and shirts. It never hit it off for that intended purpose, but it became the forerunner for bra straps that are still in use today. He also invented a trivia game. But his most successful invention (financially) was for a scrapbook with self-adhesive pages.

Mark Twain had a strong fondness for cats and wanted to have them around him at all times.

He based Huckleberry Finn on a real person. It was a boy he knew while growing up in Hannibal, MO. The boy was four years older than Clemens, and he described him as “ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had.”

In addition to numerous articles, essays and short stories, Mark Twain wrote a total of 28 books, four of which were published posthumously.

Clemens was born right after Halley’s Comet made its 1835 appearance. In 1909 he was quoted as saying “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet.”  Strangely, as he predicted, he passed away of a heart attack on April 21, 1910 the day after Halley’s Comet made its closest pass to Earth. He was 74 years old.

 

 

There are tons of great quotes attributed to Mark Twain. I’m going to focus here on some of the ones that have to do with books, reading and writing:

Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.

The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.

The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.

‘Classic’ – a book which people praise and don’t read.

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

Books are for people who wish they were somewhere else.

High and fine literature is wine, and mine is only water; but everybody likes water.

A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.

Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.

When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them?then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart.

Every person is a book, each year a chapter.

The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.

One should never use exclamation points in writing. It is like laughing at your own joke.

And one of my favorites:

Choosing not to read is like closing an open door to paradise.

So do you have a favorite Mark Twain book, bit of trivia or quote? Did any of the above surprise you?