Guest Blogger Janette Kenny: Genuine Western Hospitality

onerealcowboy2.jpgonerealman2.jpgAn unwritten code of the west was that any cowboy caught on the trail at dusk could pretty much count on finding a hot meal and a bunk at any ranch.  Being a research junkie and nosy to boot, I decided to look into this open-door policy a bit deeper.  I wasn’t surprised to learn that some ranchers welcomed American and European sportsman to use their ranch as a base while they hunted big game.  In fact, they courted these guests to come to the West.  The reasons were varied and yet practical. Even with the railroad going coast-to-coast soon after the Civil War, news tended to travel slow.  Having “big city” or foreign guests was especially welcome in an area where newsworthy items were, for the most part, spread by word of mouth. 

Of course, there was another benefit to these visiting sportsmen, or “dudes,” and was that they could help control the wild game that preyed on their herds, thus saving ranchers time and resources.  I suppose that constituted just another way to “pay one’s way.” 

eatonranchcabin.jpgIt’s said that paying guest ranches came about in the early 1880s when a visitor at the Custer Trail Ranch in the Dakota Territory was enjoying himself so that he offered to pay the Eatons to extend his stay there and also grant him the use of a horse.  Word of such an arrangement spread, and other ranchers began providing guest quarters. 

By the 1890s, more visitors ventured west to partake of the western hospitality and thrill of the hunt on the ranches that welcomed guests.    

Being raised on a farm, I know full well that some years farmers barely eek out a living.  Running a guest ranch quickly became more lucrative than raising cattle, especially in light of the devastating winter of 1885-86 when hundreds of thousands of cattle died in the blizzards and ranchers were facing bankruptcy.  For years after that devastation, many ranchers held on to their land simply by opening up their ranch to paying strangers.   The guest ranches were fairly split on what they offered visitors.  Some, like the Gros Ventre Lodge in the late 1890s, was noted for their big game hunts that attracted sportsmen from the U.S. and abroad.  Others, like the Custer Trail Ranch, maintained a working ranch so visitors could get a taste of authentic ranch life, from the mundane activities of ranching to the cowboy exhibitions held on ranches, which were the forerunner of the rodeo before it was an organized and recognized sport.   

newprairiecabinnexttooriginal.jpgBy the turn of the century, the railroad and ranchers teamed up to advertise guest ranches.  It was a lucrative deal for both parties, and today dude ranches are going strong all over the U.S. The Eaton brothers knew a good thing when they saw it back in the 1890s when the started the first guest ranch.  They moved their operation from North Dakota to Wolf, Wyoming in 1904, and soon provided extensive guided trails into the Yellowstone region for men – and women.  It’s the latter that snared my attention.  

After seeing a picture that included lady “dudes” sitting before their tents knitting in the wild, I knew I had to include this bit of history in a novel.  Of course, I took free license and made my guest ranch exclusively for woman – a surprise that my cowboy hero Gil Yancy was none to happy to be involved in.   I choose Wyoming as the setting for One Real Man, my April 08 release, partly because I love Wyoming, and partly because it offered women far more freedoms in the 1890s, starting with being the first state where women could vote. 

custertrailranchcourtesyosbornstudios.jpgMy heroine Josie desperately needed freedom, and Gil had his mind set on taking control of her ranch – and her.  Ah, both had a lot to learn and a lot to give up in order to have a happily ever after.  But oh, the rewards.    

To get the comments going, have you stayed on a guest ranch before?  If you had your preference, would you rather stay at a working ranch, or a resort ranch?  Me?  I’ll take the real cowboy any day.   

I’ll give away an autographed copy of my March debut, One Real Cowboy to one of the commenters.  You’re welcome to stop by my website (www.jankenny.com) to read more about my books, and me. 

November and Birthdays!

horseheader1.jpeGood Morning Western Romance Lovers!

 Strange topic for discussion, isn’t it?  But November means more to me than just Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season.  For me, it spells birthdays.  And today I’d love to hear about your birthday and anything special that you would like to share with us about them.

Okay, so why November and birthdays?  Well, it begins with my own, I supppose.  I’m a November baby.  Now, I must make mention here that I do not like my sign, never have.  And though some friends of mine might say that it fits me (somewhat at least) — to my way of thinking, it does not.

That aside, when I was young I always thought that my birthday was special, because in southern Illinois (where I grew up), November was probably the most beautiful month of the year.  Smells of leaves and the crisp air, combining with the scent of smoke from the leaves being burned (yes, in southern IL at that time, we burned our leaves) all made the month special for me.  However, never, not once in all my growing up, did I ever have an actual birthday party — not until I was older and with a family of my own did that ever occur.

2000-11.jpgMy children say that November is a tough time for them because of all the birthdays in the month.  To start off, there’s mine, then there’s my brother-in-law’s and my favorite cousin’s, then there’s my ex-hubby’s wife’s birthday toward the end of the month and then right at the end of the month is my ex-hubby’s birthday.   There’s also a good friend’s birthday in there, as well.  The above picture to the left by the way, is of a birthday party for my kids a few years ago.

 roadtr71.jpgThis is Sammy, enjoying a birthday, as well.  Now, let’s also take a look at the traditional Native American style birthdays.  In the Lakota nation — or as I have been told — it was once customary for the person with the birthday to give gifts, not get them.  Note that in Native America, sharing with others was natural and one of the highest honors accorded to an individual.  No man could hold office who squandered his riches to himself.  But don’t think that this was a form of socialism, as I have read others to envision.  Definitely not, since socialism denotes the action of force in taking away the assets of another to give to someone else (and not necessarily to someone else who is more in need — often that asset goes directly into the pockets of the already rich and not-so-famous).

In Native America, sharing was an act of kindness and an act of selflessness.  It was considered one of the highest actions a human being could bestow upon another, and nothing was ever taken from one by force (as in our income tax system).  Things were given to others to show respect and to show one’s love of one’s fellows.

tour99111.jpgSo please come and share your stories with me and with others today.  I and our wonderful audience of romance lovers, would very much delight in hearing from you.  But most of all, have a truly super November!

Guest: Mary Connealy!

What I tried to do in Petticoat Ranch is get inside a man’s head.cover_petticoatranch_sm.jpg

I’m lucky I got out alive.

The comedy in Petticoat Ranch comes largely from my heroine Sophie thinking like a woman and my hero Clay thinking like a man. They have even less exposure to the opposite sex than is usual.

Well, Sophie’s had exposure, she’s just come away with a very dim view. Clay grew up around men in the Rocky Mountains. He’s completely lost.

All Clay knows about women he’s heard or made up. He expects quiet, polite little women folk to stay clean, stay inside, cook his dinner. He doesn’t quite get it that they’ve been living on their own on a Texas ranch for years.

All Sophie knows about men is from her worthless husband. She had to do most of the work when he was alive and keeping him happy—a hopeless task—was just one chore she didn’t have to do after he was dead. She expects little or nothing from her new husband.

I suppose it’s risky to ever believe you know what a man is thinking but I feel like I had a little better chance than a lot of people because of my husband.

Ivan comes from a family of seven sons. His mother is a saint. That woman can tell stories of blood and destruction and mayhem that would make Stephen King run screaming.

Now Ivan and I have four daughters. Watching the mystified way he reacts to the girls is funny.

If you’ve got sons and daughters both you know how brothers are. They torment their sisters for entertainment.
“Yay! I made her scream!”
“Yay! I made her cry!”
“Yay! I embarrassed her in front of her friends!”

Little brothers learn to not only accept those crying, screaming moments from sisters, they revel in them.  But to a man who’s never had a sister to torture, females remain very much a mystery. I’ve decided it’s one of those things you learn as part of your childhood development…or you never learn it at all.

So, once when one of the girls was crying over some trauma…I think she got called out in a softball game…or maybe benched…or scolded by the coach, I can’t remember. I was hugging her and listening to her cry it out and just generally doing this, “Oh, honey, oh sweet baby, you poor thing”…routine until the tears stopped. That’s what they seem to need.

Ivan came in and he saw her crying and he was furious. Injustice! Who made you cry? Why I oughta….

When his growling didn’t make her stop crying—shocker—he pulled out his billfold and offered her twenty dollars.
Well, my daughter is a bright little thing and after all, it’s not like she’d never lost a ball game before. She snatched the twenty and cheered right up.

Later, I had a little talk with him about the wisdom of teaching the girls that crying in front of a boy earns you money.
Hello emotional blackmail!
Hello romantic comedy novel.
Hello ‘Petticoat Ranch’.

img_6416.jpgI did research for the place—Texas. The history, the flora and fauna, the clothing, the ranching, the lingo. But the kernel of the story comes from my real life Petticoat Ranch.

What do you think? Are heroes harder for women authors to write? Do we really know what’s going on inside a man’s head? Are our heroes all romanticized? Are they doing what we wish they’d do instead of what a man really does?

I’m going to have a drawing for an autographed copy of Petticoat Ranch today. Everyone who leaves a comment has their name thrown in the hat.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

horseheader1.jpeHAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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

Recipe:

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

1-4 cup Rice Protein Powder — organic if possible

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

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

3 tblsp. cocoa powder — organic if possible

4 tblsp. butter

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

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

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

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

 halloween.jpg

NanoRama! Let’s Be Buddies!

nano_participant_icon_large.gifWell, tomorrow is the first of November and some of us have been waiting for the big day.  I know there are probably quite a few of us doing NaNoWriMo (National Write a Book in a Month), and if you are, please buddy me so we can root for each other’s progress!

I’m CherylStJohn

What are you working on?

I’m going to work on two different contracted books.  First I’ll work on one that isn’t due for a while, but I want to be writing until I get a revision letter for the one that’s due sooner, then I’ll switch and work on that one.  Make perfect sense?  I know, I confuse myself sometimes.

Do you use your Alphasmart or a laptop for Nano?  Gives my backside a break from The Chair.

 Go Nano-ers!

Witch Finger Cookies

Pumkins

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

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

CREEPY WITCH FINGERS

Witch Fingers

Yield: 5 dozen

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

Few drops – Green food coloring

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

 

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

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

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

Wishing everyone a Safe & Fun Halloween! 

Tips For Using Excess Candy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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