A Little History, a Margarita Recipe, and a Giveaway!

When I realized my post fell on Cinco de Mayo, I wondered how the day became such a big United States celebration. Okay, I hear those who remember I live in Texas saying, “You’re just asking this now?” Yes, I should’ve researched this sooner having lived in Texas over 35 years, but as my father said, I was born two weeks late and have been late ever since!

The first thing I discovered, that celebrating Cinco de Mayo is primarily a US festivity, surprised me. I also mistakenly thought some that the day commemorated Mexico’s independence from Spain. (This occurred on September 16, 1821.) What Cinco de Mayo originally celebrated was 1862 Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. On that day, Mexican peasants with South Texas and Rio Grande Valley vaqueros led by Goliad, Texas, born General Ignacio Zaragosa defended forts in Puebla. Though poorly trained, short on ammunition, weapons, and artillery, they defeated the French.

In 1864, Mexican American associations in California organized an event to memorialize the battle. To these people, the win was a symbol of Mexican pride and hope for freedom over tyranny. Soon after, communities in South Texas started commemorating the day. Newspapers from the 1880s and 1890s contained stories on Cinco de Mayo celebrations in San Antonio, Laredo, and El Paso. In the 1960s Goliad created the General Zaragoza State Historic Site in Goliad State Park. In 1973 the town held Fiesta Zaragoza which included music, ballet folklórico performances, and a barbecue cookoff. (After all, this was Texas!) In 1980 Puebla gifted Goliad with a statue for their historic site, and in 1990, the Texas Senate declared Goliad the “official place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.”

As to how Cinco de Mayo has become the huge event it is today in the US? Part of the reason could be because as some claim winning the Battle of Puebla, slowed Napoleon III’s taking of Mexico and installing Maximilian I, and prevented the French’s involvement in the US Civil War on the Confederate’s side. But most agree the celebration’s huge popularity is due to marketing folks realizing the day’s potential.

Tonight if you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and toast General Zaragoza and the bravery of those Texans that fought with him against the French but aren’t big on crowds, here’s my dear hubby’s margarita recipe.

          Into a shaker with ice, place the following:

          1 shot Tequila

          1/2 shot orange liqueur such as Triple Sec

          1/2 shot Fresh squeezed lime juice

          1/2 shot Simple Syrup (Make by bringing equal parts of sugar and water to a boil and cooling.)

          Shake well. Strain into a glass filled with ice and rimmed with salt (optional).

Note: You can make a margarita mix to store in the fridge by mixing equal parts of fresh lime juice and simple syrup.

As an extra bonus, here’s my hubby’s great fajita recipe to go with the margaritas. The meat is also super in quesadillas.



1  lb skirt steak

2  limes

1  pkg tortillas


½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp cumin

1 tsp coarse salt

1 tsp coriander

1 Tbl chili powder


Sprinkle meat with tenderizer. Combine dry ingredients to make the rub. Apply the rub to the meat, let stand 10 minutes. Sprinkle meat with fresh lime juice. Refridgerate 30-60 minutes covered. Grill on high heat for 6-8 minutes per side. Let rest 5 minutes. Slice against the grain.

To be entered in today’s giveaway of a margarita car air freshener, car coasters  (they also fit in my couch’s cup holders), and a copy of The Rancher and the Vet leave a comment about your favorite Mexican dish, dessert, or cocktail. My favorite is a tie between sopapillas and flan!

Winner! Winner! For Karen Kay’s Paperback book of SENECA SURRENDER


Many thanks to all of you who came to the blog yesterday and played the word game.  We have many wordsmiths amongst us.  Let me name a few:  Charlene Whitehouse was able to make 111 words.  Sejoc created 104.  Arlene Jones topped the list in second place with 127 and Patricia B. got 47 before she had to go.  And, Pam Hamblin  is in 1st place and created 161 words!  Wow!

There was a book of mine within those letters, too, but it was a little too hard because an “s” was left out of the words (and I didn’t notice).  But Arlene Jones and Alicia Haney and Sarah Taylor got the right book, despite there being no “s” in the letters when there should have been.  That book was IRON WOLF’S BRIDE.

My husband drew the name of the winner tonight and the winner of the paperback copy of the book, SENECA SURRENDER is


Arlene Jones

Congratulations Arlene.  Please email privately to get your address to me.  I think I have it already, but if you could email it to me again, that would be great.  The address is:  karenkay(dot)author(at)startmail(dot)com

Also, if you came to the blog yesterday, please email me and let me know and I’ll send you a link to get the e-book, LAKOTA PRINCESS, free from bookfunnel.

Thanks again to everyone who came to the blog yesterday!  Do well.


Help Wanted in Leadville and a Giveaway!

While trying to decide what to post this month, I ran across some interesting things about Leadville, Colorado. I’ve written stories that took place in a town patterned after Leadville, but didn’t know some of the finer details. These little snippets of details were written by writers for The Chronicle and beg the question, “What sort of job opportunities are in Leadville and what are the salaries? Well, that’s a good question! Anyone looking to move somewhere should be asking such things. Back then Leadville was a boom town, so there were all sorts of opportunities available besides going there to mine gold.

Competent hardware clerks, for example, could always find work and got paid $75 to $100 per month! And what about first class milliners? They could make $18 to $25 dollars per week! Not bad for a hat maker. But seeing as how a talented milliner was hard to come by, they were worth it.

Machinists got paid $3.50 to $4 per day. Boiler makers got $3.50 per day. But there wasn’t a lot of demand for these guys so needless to say, they had extra milling around, waiting for work. And speaking of extra, the town had its share of barkeepers of all kinds. Even the most skilled could be out of work. But the ones that were employed made $75 to $125 a month! That’s more than the hardware clerks. If you were an Assayer, you could make even more money. The ones at the mines and smelters could make $125 to $200 a month!

And of course, if you were a hotel clerk, you made a cool $100 a month. And then there were the writers …

If you worked on one of the daily papers your pay could range from $25 to $40 a week. There was no demand for special articles. There was enough to write about as it was. And novelists? Brace yourselves my fellow fillies. They could find no work at all. There were already scads of journalists waiting in the wings for a time when they’d be needed. For many, it didn’t come, so they moved on.

Needless to say, the article ended with a warning that none come to Leadville in hopes of finding work in journalism. Today, however, I’m sure Leadville’s journalists find plenty of things to write about …

Have you ever seen a book or article that told you what sort of money folks made back in the day or what some of the everyday staples they needed cost? I’ve always found this fascinating! I’ll choose one person from the comments to win one free e-book copy of Winning the Spinster’s Heart. A fun little story about a town with a matchmaking problem and one poor fellow with an engineering degree. Now what was he going to do with it? This town also has a pair of novelists that live there. And they do just fine.




Hi everyone! In the first post of this series (The Battle of New Orleans—Learning History Through Songs #1) I mentioned that these ballad-type tunes were popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s, with Marty Robbins and Johnny Horton being two of the best-known singers of this type of songs.

The Battle of New Orleans was penned by an Arkansas school principal, Jimmy Driftwood, who wrote it in the hopes of making learning more fun for his students.

But what about The Ballad of the Alamo?

This theme was written by Ukrainian-born composer Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin (May 10, 1894 – November 11, 1979). He was a Hollywood film score composer and conductor. According to “Lyrics”, he is considered “one of the giants of Hollywood movie music.” Though he was musically trained in Russia, he is best known for his westerns, a genre “where his expansive, muscular style had its greatest impact.” Tiomkin received 22 Academy Award nominations and won four Oscars, also according to “Lyrics”.

Dimitri Tiomkin

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38069784

I can see why! He also wrote The Green Leaves of Summer (also from the John Wayne BATJAC production of THE ALAMO, as well as the theme for the movie Do Not Forsake Me from the movie HIGH NOON, and among other favorites, the theme song for Rawhide!

Tiomkin had a way of putting sweeping musical scores together with some “killer” lyrics—and with Marty Robbins recording The Ballad of the Alamo, it was a sure-fire winner! Though this song has been covered by other artists, and inspired other songs about the Alamo as well, the original Marty Robbins version is incomparable. Recorded in 1960, it became a “crossover” hit, spending 13 weeks on the pop charts and ranked high at #34, at one point.


Imagine, telling the entire story of the Alamo in one story-song. With its haunting melody combined with unforgettable lyrics, this piece stands tall among these songs that teach history through music.

“In the southern part of Texas/Near the town of San Antone/ There’s a fortress all in ruins that the weeds have overgrown…”

The words go on to describe what’s left of the battle scene briefly and the men who were there, as they “…answer to that roll call in the sky.”

Switching gears to what actually happened, the next verse takes us to the action:  “Back in 1836/Houston said to Travis/Get some volunteers and go/Fortify the Alamo…”

The story is told in full—how Santa Anna called for surrender and Travis “answered with a shell—and a rousin’ Rebel yell.” Santa Anna issues his decree: “ ‘Play Degüello,’ he roared/ I will show them no quarter/Every one will be put to the sword!”

I still get chills at this line: “One hundred and eighty-five/Holdin’ back five thousand…” The days are counted off to mark time quickly, and then the sad fact that the “…troops that were comin’/ Never came, never came, never came…”

FALL OF THE ALAMO by Robert J. Onderdonk

By Robert Jenkins Onderdonk – 1. transferred from en.wikipedia, original is at the Texas State Archives2. A Glimpse of History in Modern San Antonio., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7843901

Of course, we know how the story ends. But Tiomkin brings the lyrics full circle when he starts the final verse with the same lines as the first verse, then diverges and lets us see what the cowboy sees, as if we are there with him.

In the southern part of Texas

Near the town of San Antone

Like a statue on a pinto

Rides a cowboy all alone,

And he sees the cattle grazing where a century before

Santa Anna’s guns were blazin’ and the cannons used to roar

And his eyes turn sorta misty,

And his heart begins to glow,

And he takes his hat off slowly…


To the men of Alamo.

To the thirteen days of glory

At the siege of Alamo…


Here’s the YOUTUBE link if you would like to hear this wonderful retelling of this battle. I can’t even imagine having to perform this in a concert setting as I’m sure Marty Robbins had to do quite often. It’s very difficult to sing, though the logical progression of events make the words easy to remember.


http://<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Eyu3OIn5A00″ title=”YouTube video player” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

Here’s a favorite memory. When my son was in elementary school in fourth grade, his teacher called me one night to tell me that when they’d started talking about the battle of the Alamo in class in history, Casey seemed to already know all about it. She said, “Well, what do you know about it, Casey?” Having heard this song about a million and one times in the car, he said, “Back in 1836, Houston said to Travis…Get some volunteers and go fortify the Alamo!” After some questioning, she was amazed that he remembered so much, and it sure brought a smile to my face.

Have you ever been to the Alamo? We went one year, and it’s one of the most moving places I’ve ever been. You can definitely feel the presence of those men who fought and died there.

Winner’s for Karen Kay’s Give-Away

Good Evening!

We have two (2) winners for the free e-book of IRON WOLF’S BRIDE!

First before I announce the winners, let me thank each and every one of you who came to the blog yesterday.

And the winners are:

Julie Butler &

Caryl Kane

Congratulations to you both.  Now, it’s possible that you might already have this book, and if you do, please email me privately at karenkay(at)startmail(dot)com and let me know what book you might like if IRON WOLF’S BRIDE is one you have already read.

For any of the other bloggers who came to the blog today, if you go to this link, you can get your free copy of the book (this is my page for reviewers).


Thanks again for coming to the blog.  You are very appreciated.



Family Stories

We write them, we read them, but also, they are our own history – they’re part of who we are.

I have two examples:

First, mine. My grandfather was an itinerant preacher on the plains of Saskatchewan, Canada. They lived in a tent (not many trees on the plains). He’d be home long enough to get his wife pregnant, then go off on his donkey, preaching again. After the first few babies were born (she was alone), she told him she was going to a city, with or without him.

9 of the 11 children. My dad is the youngest

So they moved to Saskatoon. The kids kept coming, and at one point, the house caught on fire. Once my grandmother got all the kids out, she went back for her husband’s sewing machine (he was a tailor as well as a preacher) and threw it out the window before getting out herself.

This isn’t the one that burned.

I come from hardy stock!

My second story is my husband’s. His maternal great-grandmother was 11, her sister 9, when her mother died back east. Her father put them on a train heading west, and told them there would be someone to meet them in Texas, and he’d follow as soon as he wrapped up business.

The girls got off the train in Midland, Texas. No one to meet them. A few good people traded off taking them in until the 11 year old could get work and take care of her sister.

She never knew what happened to her father.

Two months after she died, they got a phone call from someone back east, claiming to be kin. Turned out, the father shipped the girls off on a train to get rid of them. He was marrying another woman, who didn’t want his kids.

5 generation photo. His great-grandmother is bottom left.

Can you imagine? I’m glad she passed without knowing that.

Okay, your turn – give me your family story in the comments!

Book Decor

Okay, I’m a book freak. I know it. Writing them. Reading them. And decorating with them.

This lamp is made of actual old books. Our local library used old books they no longer shelve, and makes them into lamps and sells them to raise money for the library. This one is a little bit sideways thanks to my 2-year-old granddaughter who KNOCKED IT OVER. This is why we can’t have nice things!!!

My faux old book tissue holder. I just saw it and loved it and there was no stopping me! It’s on the end table right next to my recliner and I used it every day!

This is a Christmas tree ornament. But I can’t even think of putting it away eleven months of the year. So it hangs form my bookshelf with my own books on it!

My daughter gave this to me for Christmas one year.

And the next year she gave me this Christmas ornament, also used to decorate my shelf of books.

Now I should start on my WESTERN decor. Maybe for another blog.

How about you? Do you surround yourself with books…that are just books? Or do you take it farther and decorate with them?