Tag: Christmas

Cowboy Simple Christmas

Keeping Simple Christmas…

In a lot of modern homes, Christmas is anything but simple. It’s costly and complex, like a Rubik’s Cube puzzle with  angles and facets and faces… And no matter how much you turn and twist, someone is not going to be happy.

Well dagnabbit, that’s a confounding situation since Christmas isn’t supposed to be about us.

It’s about them… a family, pushed to travel with a baby due and no choice. A family put upon by governmental regulations, taxes and expectations… and a secret baby.

Anyone who writes romance understands the lure of a secret baby. We have Mary, pregnant by unexplained means. We have Joseph who stays by her side because an angel came to him in a dream…. and told him to stand by Mary, to welcome the coming child as his own…

And then he did, so Joseph is one of my favorite saints. He not only stood by her, he cared for his wife and little son and when it was time to escape a tyrannical killer in the form of King Herod, Joseph fled with his wife and child to a foreign land…. and didn’t bring them back until Herod’s reign was over.

Now that’s a true cowboy.

He put them first.

He cared for them. He probably wasn’t exactly comfortable with all of this… a wife, pregnant by unexpected and unexplained means…. a child not his own…. and to leave what he knew first to protect them.

He may have been a carpenter, a man who worked with his hands to shape wood, but in my heart, he was a true cowboy. He put others first…. he was patient as needed…. strong enough to take the lead… and loving enough to accept a child not his own. That wasn’t exactly the norm back then.

This link to Michael Card singing “Joseph’s Song” is such a perfect image of Joseph… the cowboy. The sacrificial father…

Simple Christmas…. Remember Laura Ingalls’ description of her prairie Christmas in “Little House on the Prairie”? A tin cup… a candy stick… and a shiny penny!

And Ma made sugar cakes and they roasted venison or rabbit or fish caught in Plum Creek…

Simple isn’t bad. Simple is good. Simple can be fulfilling. Like when you stay up all night with an ailing cow and she takes a turn for the better come morning…. Like when your taxes shoot up and you’re not sure where the money will come from and all of a sudden you have the best maple syrup season you’ve had in a dozen years… Or how about when someone puts a bug in your ear about fancy pumpkins and you like the idea and grow them and sell 17,000 pumpkins because you thought fancy stacking pumpkins would sell… and then they did! 🙂

Simple goodness… simple foods…. simple comforts…. simple songs… simple romance….

In this beautiful season of giving, I have a brand new book release that centers on second chances… new beginnings… and God’s perfect timing in a little town where wishes and prayers and hopes and dreams mingle freely…

A town called “Wishing Bridge”.  And of course there is a link for you to see this wonderful 4 STAR ROMANTIC TIMES story RIGHT HERE!!!!! 

I want you to read this story. It’s not a Western, but it’s a great book with a heart for the downtrodden and hope for the future… It’s a story that grips your heart and soothes your soul… it’s a story of small town loving and small town fears… and about three women who make a pledge to help each other as needed, and now– twelve years later– it’s needed.

I’ve got a Kindle copy to give away today so let me know if you’ve got a Kindle or the Kindle app for your computer or tablet…. and I’ll tuck your name into the wishing well!  So what do you do to keep the spirit of Christmas as your focal point so you don’t get lost in the hustle and bustle? I’d love to have you share your points right here today!

 

Twas the Day After Christmas…

Dear Santa,

What do you do the day after Christmas? Do you sleep in? Have breakfast in bed? Rejoice that your mission for the year is
over?

Or are you already planning for next year?

I hope you take a few days off and recharge those batteries. I hope that the pictures I’ve seen of tropical Santa in flowered shorts and a straw hat are real and you’re taking the missus on a much-deserved vacation.

When I was a teacher, the day after Christmas was one day closer to going back to work, so I would embrace the day, try to make it last as long as possible. But the days always slipped away and I found myself back at school. Now don’t get me wrong—I loved teaching, loved my kids—but teaching is exhausting and
sometimes my batteries didn’t get totally recharged, which is why I want you to take that vacation. The last thing this world needs is a burned-out Santa.

The day after Christmas represents such a shift. The holiday for which I’ve been preparing for months is over. Done. Gone for another twelve months.  If I feel a mixed sense of sadness and relief, I can only imagine what you feel after completing such a monumental task.

So, Santa, take care of yourself. We appreciate what you do, sharing the Love and Hope and Goodness that this season represents.

Blessings,

Jeannie

Updated: December 24, 2016 — 8:04 pm

‘Twas the Night B’fore Christmas, Filly Style!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas in this Junction of ours;

The sky over the prairie was ablaze with bright stars;

Our boots were lined up by the fire with care,

In hopes that Old Santa Claus soon would be there;

 

Felicia’s ornery mule napped snug there in the barn,

Whilst our visiting guest was spinning a yarn;

O’course JEANNIE in her wool socks and CHERYL in her cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

 

When out in the corral there arose such a ruckus,

MARY sprang her from bed to see what the heck was…

…outside the window, there on the barn roof,

She banged open the shutters and near busted a tooth!

 

The moon was so bright it near blinded our eyes

And the snow landed like whippin’ cream coverin’ a pie,

When, what to our hornswaggled sight should appear,

But a covered wagon and eight dusty reindeer!

 

When she saw the little old driver with red cheeks and nose,

LINDA flew right to work sweeping dust from his clothes.

He was cheery and bright, a right jolly cowpoke,

TRACY  laughed when she saw him; he was her kind of  folk.

 

Those reindeers, they ain’t docile. What a hissy they threw!

Nearly toppled the wagon, and Old Santa Claus too.

Quicker’n a youngin’ off to play hookie,

That old geezer came in and asked PAM for a cookie;

 

KAREN K. found one and he ate it, so KATHLEEN got milk

Then TANYA presented him with a scarf made of silk.

But CHARLENE, she hung back, we think she was a’feared

‘Cause all night she trembled and her eyes how they teared

 

No worry, KAREN W. told her, the fat guy’s a friend.

To us in the Junction and those ’round the bend,

Sure ’nuff Santa left a package in each Fillies’ boot,

Didn’t matter none to him, they was dusted with soot.

 

Then somethin’ happened, caught us all by surprise,

WINNIE, she showed up with an armload of pies.

We sat down to eat ‘em, and they tasted fine,

Thanks! With all of our deadlines, we hadn’t had time;

 

Old Santa asked for seconds; Bet that’s why he’s merry.

He tried pumpkin and apple, even pe-can and cherry.

PHYLISS heaped on whipped cream, and still he ate more.

His belly how it swelled! Would he fit out the door?

 

“It’s my big night,” he declared.  “Only comes once a year.”

Good thing for that, too, or he’d burst, we do fear.

He stifled a burp, and a pipe out it came;

“Smoking’s not good for you,”  MARGARET did loudly exclaim.

 

“All that sugar too,” KATHRYN hollered. “Think of your health.

FELICIA reminded. “Think of the children counting on your jolly old self!”

He listened real close and even nodded his head,

Took right to his heart everything they all said.

 

He tossed that old pipe in the fire with a pop,

“The Missus, she’s been tryin’ to get me to stop,”

With a hearty laugh and a promise to come back

The Fillies watched that old fella leap up the smokestack.

 

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a yee-haw,

And away they all flew, like twister-flung straw.

And we heard him exclaim as that team took flight,

“Merry Christmas, you bloggers, and to all a good-night.”

 *****************************************************************************************************************************************JEFFREY KOTERBA’S ARTWORK USED WITH PERMISSION

VISIT HIS WEBSITE: http://www.jeffreykoterba.com

And with much love and thanks to our dear friend and former filly Cheryl St. John, for incepting this filly poem.

Christmas Love Letter

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img_3620During this holiday season, it’s fun to think about Santa and the joy of giving. To look at Christmas lights and sing carols. To bake yummy sweets and play games. But as I pondered about the holiday letter I would like to share with you, only one thought came to mind – the greatest Christmas love letter ever written.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned … This is the verdict: Light has come into the world … whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

God's LoveThe most powerful being in existence took on the helpless form of a babe. The King of Kings chose to arrive in a humble, muck-filled stable. All to start the greatest love story every told. He came because he loved you. He loved me. He loved all who came before and all who will come after. And he will go to any lengths not only to prove his love but to win our hearts in return. Even to the point of sacrificing his life to gain our freedom.

So as we drive through neighborhoods, oohing and aahing over the beautiful Christmas lights, let us remember the Light who came into the world. As we experience the joy of giving, let us remember the One who gave everything to win our hearts. And as we enjoy the precious gift of time spent with family, let us remember the Father who loves us unconditionally with an everlasting love.

Since I love a good carol, here are some good old country boys singing about the greatest gift ever given.

Merry Christmas!

Dear Santa: I Can Explain

Kathleen Rice Adams

 

Dear Santa,

Ed's teethI was framed.

You’ve probably heard by now that I’ve been bad this year. All those things? I didn’t do them.

For example, I did not snap at my brother, repeatedly. I was showing him what good dental hygiene looks like. And anyway, if he hadn’t tried to usurp my spot in Mom’s lap, somebody who wasn’t me never would’ve snapped.

I also didn’t hop onto the kitchen counter. I climbed up there using a stool. If Mom hadn’t left the stool in such a convenient spot, that wouldn’t have happened, either.

The trash bag incident was the fault of a marauding pack of wild Chihuahuas who broke into the house while I was occupied trying to remove a squirrel from the premises. Have you ever seen the mess marauding Chihuahuas make? It isn’t pretty.

As for the bathroom trashcan… That was my brother. He’s always committing crimes and then pointing the paw at me. Let me tell you, Santa, he’s no angel. I was just trying to clean up the disaster.

Ed cuteWhen I dragged the roast out of the shopping bag, I was trying to help Mom put away the groceries. Do you realize how flimsy the packaging is on meat? Someone at the grocery store needs to address that.

Likewise, I did not rip open the bag of dog food. “Ripping” is too strong a word. I carefully chewed off a corner—and I only did that so Mom wouldn’t have to wrestle the bag open on her own.

As for peeing in the house… That rule simply isn’t fair. Mom pees in the house. I’ve tried to teach her to go outside, but she’s stubborn. And besides, there’s no DNA evidence to support her claim that she caught me in the act.

I did not drag the clean sheets out of the laundry basket, scruff them into a pile, and lie on them. Everybody knows sheets are much more comfortable on the bed.

Neither did I hide Mom’s shoe. I was redecorating, and Mom left her shoes in a spot that completely destroyed the aesthetic. One shoe created a pleasing avant-garde effect. Two shoes was one too many.

Ed's earsMom was also to blame when someone bit her nose. She shouldn’t have tried to trim my toenails. I go to great trouble to grow my nails to the precise length required for gardening (which, by the way, isn’t being bad, despite Mom’s insistence she hadn’t planned to put a plant in that spot). It was just a tiny little nip, anyway.

I did not leave teeth marks on the corner of a book. I was checking to make sure Mom’s editor hadn’t missed anything embarrassing. (Mom is notorious for mixing up words like “desert” and “dessert,” you know.) I had to turn the page somehow.

And speaking of her editor… I admit I typed a message into a chatroom where Mom was conversing with the Prairie Rose honchos. I can explain that, though: The minute Mom stepped away from her desk, I could tell gossip was about to erupt. Was I supposed to sit quietly and let them savage Mom while her back was turned?

Ed's profileThe accusation that I ate the tamale Mom was going to have for lunch is nothing more than a vicious rumor. There is not the slightest bit of evidence a tamale was ever on that plate.

I also did not find a chicken bone in the yard and attempt to run off and gnaw on it. That was another case of me trying to tidy up the place. Indoors isn’t the only part of the environment around here that could use a good cleaning.

In my defense, I should mention that I try to atone for all the bad things I don’t do by being a fierce watchdog. Nobody gets into my house—not burglars, rapists, ax-murderers, or Mom’s family. (You can’t be too careful, and some of Mom’s relatives look pretty sketchy.)

Ed on Santa's listI hope you will keep all of this in mind when you decide who’s been naughty and nice this year. Just to be sure there’s no mistake, I belong on the “nice” list. If you have to put someone around here on the naughty list, I think it should be pretty clear by now that Mom’s the real troublemaker.

Love,
Ed

P.S.
I hope you will bring me my own treats. Otherwise, my brothers and sister will just claim I stole theirs. I would never, ever, contemplate snatching a treat out of someone else’s mouth, no matter what the others say.

P.S.S.
If the cookies and milk are gone when you get here, it’s because there’s a marauding cat in the neighborhood, too.

 

(Ed would like to convince someone to vouch for him to Santa, and he’s willing to stoop to bribery to do so. Leave a comment telling him what you want for Christmas. He’ll pick two commenters and send each an ebook version of the Christmas anthology Wishing for a Cowboy.)

 

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Julie Lence: The Poinsettia


We’re so delighted to have Julie Lence come to visit our neck of the woods. She always has something interesting to share. She also has a giveaway so please comment. Please make her welcome.

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me-mediumThe Poinsettia is a native Mexican plant. Its origins trace back to present day Taxco. The poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, Willd, is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family and is defined as a female flower, without petals and usually without sepals, surrounded by individual male flowers enclosed in a cup-shaped structure called a cyathium. The Euphorbia genus contains 700-1000 species. The Aztecs in central Mexico cultivated the plant and used the colorful leaves, known as bracts, to make a reddish-purple dye for clothes and makeup. The Poinsettia’s milky sap was made into a medicine to treat fevers.

 

joel-roberts-poinsettJoel Roberts Poinsett is credited as the first American to bring the plant to the United States. A botanist from Greenville, South Carolina, Poinsett was also the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. Best remembered as the founder of the Smithsonian Institute, Poinsett traveled to the Taxco area, discovered the colorful plants growing on adjacent hillsides and had some of them shipped to his home, where he grew them in his greenhouse. From there, he gifted some of the plants to his friends and also sent some to botanical gardens and to fellow botanist John Bartram in Philadelphia. Bartram sent the plant to his friend Robert Buist. Buist was a plants-man from Pennsylvania and thought to be the first person to sell the Poinsettia under its original name. Legend has it the Euphorbia pulcherrima, Willd, became known as the Poinsettia in the 1830’s, after Joel Robert Poinsett.

 

poinsettiaHow did the Poinsettia become known as the Christmas plant? The Aztecs prized the poinsettia and believed it to be a symbol of purity. In the 17th century, Franciscan monks in Mexico incorporated the flower into their Fiesta of Santa Pesbre; a nativity procession. This is the first time the Poinsettia was associated with Christmas, leading Mexico’s Christians to adopt the plant as their Christmas Eve flower. The star-shaped bracts symbolize the Star of Bethlehem. The red leaves represent Christ’s blood and the white leaves symbolize his purity.

 

andrea-sadek-white-poinsettia-figurineOnce the monks included the Poinsettia in their nativity procession, a few legends sprang up as to why and how the plant became associated with Christmas. One is the tale of poor, young Pepita who was upset because she did not have a gift to give to the baby Jesus at Christmas Eve mass. As she made her way to the church, her cousin tried to cheer her up. Pedro told Pepita that even the smallest gift presented to Jesus in love would make the Christ child happy. Pepita picked some weeds and placed them beside the manger. Before everyone’s eyes, the weeds magically transformed into beautiful red flowers. Another tale says it was an angel who told Pepita to pick the weeds and bring them to the church. Regardless, the parishioners swore they’d witnessed a miracle, and from that evening on, the flowers became known as Flores de Noche Buena; Flowers of the Holy Night.

 

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Have you gotten a poinsettia this Christmas or have plans to do so? As a Thank You for chatting with me today, I’m gifting 2 lucky winners Kindle copies of each of my 3 short Christmas stories. Merry Christmas Everyone! I wish you and your family a joyous holiday season. Julie

 

**To preview my Christmas stories, please visit Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/author/julielence?tag=pettpist-20

Naughty or Nice?

Linda pubpixChristmas is full of ringing bells, a soft warm throw, and hot drinks. But it also means gift-buying and hiding things and calls for a lot of plain old sneakiness.

Bad as I hate to admit it, I have a confession to make. I’m a snoopy person. There, my secret is out. Everyone in my family knows it. I’m not exactly proud of it, but I can’t seem to stop. I just have an insatiable curiosity. Especially when it comes to brightly wrapped gifts with my name on them. There’s nothing like that to put my well-honed skills to the test.

wrapped-giftIt all started when I was big enough to read and recognize my name. The minute those wrapped gifts came out, I’d wait until everyone was busy and not looking then I’d sneak the gift into a safe place where I wouldn’t be disturbed. (I tried to wait until everyone was out of the house but often my curiosity wouldn’t let me. I tell you, it was bad.) The best place in the house was the bathroom where no one would question a locked door. I became very skilled at removing the tape without tearing or messing up the paper. I’d quickly see what was inside and put everything back exactly like I’d found it. I never got caught back then. If I had, I would’ve gotten my sneaky little behind tanned. No, I was very careful. And I became so accomplished at the art that my little sister would beg me to do the same with hers.

And then I figured out that it was easier to peek at them BEFORE they got wrapped. Duh! I’d climb onto a chair so I could reach the top of my mom’s closet. That was generally her hiding place for the Santa stuff and presents she hadn’t had time to wrap yet. Another good spot was in her dresser drawers. No place was safe from my inquiring fingers. I was such bad, bad girl. To my knowledge, no one found out.

Although….one Christmas my mama looked at me really odd. I think she knew and the thought I disappointed her even now puts a big lump in my throat.

It never occurred to me to that it was more fun to wait for the surprise. I just never had that much patience. But what’s bad is that I’m still that way. I’m hopeless. Years ago, when everyone was still at home, my husband and kids got wise to me and either put my gifts under lock and key or they waited until the very last possible minute to buy them. Used to frustrate me to no end.

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I think being snoopy has had its advantages though. It’s come in mighty handy in writing my stories. That early training has helped me dig for those illusive facts and little hidden details that add depth to my stories. My snoopiness has worked in chipping away the ore in the mine for those sparkling golden nuggets. It’s also been helpful in finding ways to craft satisfying story endings. Searching for, digging, and unearthing the gifts that have my name on them.

Oh, and I reckon this is a good time to confess that I always have to read the last page of a book before I buy it. For some odd reason, I must know that everything is going to end well before I invest time in reading a story. Drat these ebooks! They won’t let me!

I don’t know if it’s true about confession being good for the soul or not, but I feel better. But I imagine this pretty well seals my fate at a time when Santa’s making his list and checking it twice. I’m reasonably sure I’ll find Linda Broday on the naughty side of the ledger.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

How about you? The confessional’s open. Do you have something you need to get off your chest? But are you brave enough?

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Welcome to Shanna Hatfield–and three books, three winners!

It is a pleasure and a treat to be a guest once again here at Petticoats and Pistols. Thank you to all the fillies for hosting me today. I’ll be giving away THREE ecopies of The Christmas Quandary, so please leave a comment.

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I love history and digging into tidbits of the past as I research details for my sweet western romances.

In my latest release, The Christmas Quandary, I happened upon a toy that captured my interest.

zoetrope-1

A zoetrope is one of several animation devices (pre-motion pictures) that produce the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photographs, shown in progressive phases of motion.

The name Zoetrope was composed from the Greek root words “life” and “wheel” – meaning “wheel of life.”

zoetrope-2

A cylinder with slits cut vertically in the sides is the basic component of the zoetrope. The inner surface of the cylinder features a band with images from a set of sequenced pictures. As the cylinder spins, the user looks through the slits at the pictures. The slits keeps the pictures from simply blurring together, and the user sees a rapid succession of images, producing the illusion of motion.

A 5,000-year-old earthenware bowl from Iran is considered a predecessor of the zoetrope. The bowl, decorated in a series of sequential images, portrays a goat jumping toward a tree and eating its leaves. zoetrope-4

Variations existed on the idea of the zoetrope, but it wasn’t until December 1866, when an American company, Milton Bradley and Co., advertised a zoetrope.

Zoetropes were eventually displaced by more advanced technology, notably film and later television. Today, some zoetropes can still be found in special art projects and performances.

In The Christmas Quandary, one of the characters purchases a zoetrope for his daughter’s Christmas present. The only quandary surrounding the gift is whether or not the child’s uncles will wear it out before Christmas morning since they can’t seem to stop playing with it.

Have you ever been in a quandary? Had a dilemma?

Share your answers for a chance to win one of three copies of The Christmas Quandary (Book 5 in the Hardman Holidays series).

And if you haven’t read any of the Hardman books, The Christmas Bargain (book 1) will be available for free digital downloads on Monday!

christmas-quandary

~*~

Shanna Hatfield 2Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield is out to make it happen, one story at a time. Her sweet historical and contemporary romances combine humor and heart-pumping moments with characters that seem incredibly real.

When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.

Find Shanna’s books at:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Apple

Shanna loves to hear from readers! Follow her online:

ShannaHatfield | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads | You Tube | Twitter

Make sure you sign up for her Newsletter to get the latest on new releases

and exclusive giveaways (including a free short story set in the old west)!

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READ IF YOU DARE–VINTAGE CHRISTMAS CARDS by CHERYL PIERSON

Cheryl2041web

Ever since I came upon some of the weirdest vintage Easter cards I’d ever seen and blogged about those (in two parts, no less!) I’ve just been fascinated by some of the ideas that artists of the past have had for greeting cards. What in the world crossed their minds? Who did they think would enjoy these cards, much less pick them out of all the choices available to buy and send?

Evidently, I’m not the only one who has wondered. Take a look at some of these—they are beyond “odd”.

Vintage Christmas--scallops lamenting absent friends (natives)

 

Yes. Scallops lamenting the absence of their friends (natives), so the card says—obviously the British. “May we soon see them again.” Uh…why? So they can eat us? MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

 

Vintage Christmas--panhead

 

Okay, maybe it’s just me, but…being wish “Compliments of the Season” by a boiling pan head imp that looks female on top and male on the bottom…well, that’s just plain weird. For some reason, this reminds me of the scene at the beginning of Bewitched when the pan boils over on the stove…

 

 

 

 

Vintage Christmas--Pigman

 

 

Downright creepy. An educated pigman. Or is it a boy? The hat looks like that of a young boy, but that face is anything but endearing. And why does he need the binoculars? “The better to spy on you with, my dear…” Oh, but he’s carrying a book, so at least he must be educated.

 

 

Vintage Christmas--Dead robin

 

Nothing says Merry Christmas like a picture of a dead robin, does it? I mean, what could be more joyful? Nope…can’t think of much else that could come close.

 

 

Vintage Christmas--Dog with gun

 

 

Do y’all remember the picture on the Easter card of the rabbit carefully stepping out of his home to go hunting with the colored eggs all around him? That’s what this reminds me of. A sweet little dog with a rifle near at hand…just in case he needs it.

 

 

 

Vintage Christmas--Frog violence

Well, what have we here? A frog that has been robbed and murdered by another one. But, let’s not forget to have a MERRY CHRISTMAS, shall we?

 

 

 

 

Vintage Christmas--frog and beetle

As long as we’re on the subject of frogs, how about this one? Beetle and frog having a Christmas waltz, while the dragonflies dance in the background and the giant mosquito plays the tambourine. Festive, right?

 

 

Vintage Christmas--polar bear mauling man

Merry Christmas! If you survive being mauled by the polar bear…

It’s hard to think what must have been going on inside the creative brains of these illustrators, isn’t it? Or…were they just toying with us? Maybe these were meant to be ridiculous and make us laugh.

 

But wait…what’s that I hear? Crying children? Wings of a…LOOK OUT!

Vintage Christmas (New Year)--giant wasp

 

 

 

 

 

Above all, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, even if you’re fighting off polar bears, dancing with frogs, or running from wasps!

All Hail Texas Pecans! (and a recipe)

Kathleen Rice Adams headerIn Texas, pecans are a Big Deal. The trees are native to the state, and according the archaeological record, they’ve been here since long before humans arrived. When people did arrive, they glommed onto the nuts right away as an excellent source of essential vitamins (19 of them, in fact), fats, and proteins. Comanches and other American Indians considered the nuts a dietary staple, combining pecans with fruits and other nuts to make a sort of “trail mix.” They also used pecan milk to make an energy drink and thickened stews and soups with the ground meat. Most Indians carried stores of the nuts with them when they traveled long distances, because pecans would sustain them when no other food sources were available.

Pecans

Texas pecans

An individual Texas pecan tree may live for more than 1,000 years. Some grow to more than 100 feet tall.

Pecans have been an important agricultural product in Texas since the mid-1800s. In 1850, 1,525 bushels left the Port of Galveston; just four years later, the number of bushels exceeded 13,000. In 1866, the ports at Galveston, Indianola, and Port Lavaca combined shipped more than 20,000 barrels of pecans.

Nevertheless, as the state’s population exploded, pecan groves dwindled. Trees were cut to clear fields for cotton. Pecan wood was used to make wagon parts and farm implements. One of Texas’s great natural resources was depleted so quickly that in 1904, the legislature considered passing laws to prevent the complete disappearance of the pecan.

Left alone to regenerate for a couple of decades, Texas pecan groves came back bigger than ever. Until 1945, Texas trees produced more 30 percent of the U.S. pecan crop. In 1910, pecan production in the state reached nearly 6 million pounds, and the trees grew in all but eight counties. During the 1920s, Texas exported 500 railcar loads per year, and that was only 75 percent of the state’s crop. The average annual production between 1936 and 1946 was just shy of 27 million pounds; in 1948, a banner year for pecan production, the crop zoomed to 43 million pounds produced by 3,212,633 trees. In 1972, the harvest reached a whopping 75 million pounds.

Texas pecan orchard

Texas pecan orchard

During the Great Depression, the pecan industry provided jobs for many Texans. The nuts had to be harvested and shelled. Shelling employed 12,000 to 15,000 people in San Antonio alone.

The Texas legislature designated the pecan the official state tree in 1919. Between then and now, pecan nuts became Texas’s official state health food (Texas has an official health food?), and pecan pie became the state’s official pie (and my official favorite pie). Pecan wood is used to make baseball bats, hammer handles, furniture, wall paneling, flooring, carvings, and firewood.

Yep. Pecans have always been, and continue to be, a Big Deal in Texas—especially during the holidays. I’d be surprised if any native Texans don’t bake at least one pecan pie for either Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner or both.

Texas pecan pie. Do you see how dark and luscious that is? Milk-custard, my hind leg.

Texas pecan pie. Do you see how dark and luscious that is? Milk-custard, my hind leg.

The first known appearance of a pecan pie recipe in print can be found on page 95 in the February 6, 1886, issue of Harper’s Bazaar. I’ll bet Texans were baking the pies long before that, though—and I’ll bet even back then Texas pecan pies weren’t the wimpy little milk-custard-based, meringue-covered things Harper’s recommended. In Texas, we make our pecan pies with brown sugar, molasses or corn syrup, butter, eggs, a whole bunch of pecans, and sometimes bourbon.

Another thing Texans have been making with pecans for a long, long time is cinnamon-pecan cake—another treat lots of folks enjoy around the holidays. My family doesn’t put bourbon in this dessert. Instead, we pour a delicious whiskey sauce over each slice. (It occurs to me that for a passel of Baptists, my family sure cooks with a lot of liquor. See the old family recipe for muscadine wine here.)

On to the cake recipe!

 

PecanCakeCinnamon Pecan Cake

1 cup butter, softened
2 ½ cups sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 cup chopped pecans
Additional chopped pecans or pecan halves for topping, if desired

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans.

In large bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.

In another large bowl, beat butter and sugar at medium speed 3 to 4 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beating at low speed, add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

At low speed, alternately add milk and flour mixture into sugar mixture, beating just until blended. Fold in pecans. Spread in pans. Sprinkle chopped pecans or arrange pecan halves on top, if desired.

Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove to wire rack and cool completely.

 

VanillaWhiskeySauceWhiskey Sauce

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
½ Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. sugar
¼ cup bourbon

In small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to a boil.

Whisk cornstarch and water together and add to cream while whisking constantly.

Bring to a boil, whisk and simmer until thickened (taking care not to scorch the mixture on the bottom). Remove from heat.

Stir in sugar and bourbon. Taste. Add sugar and whiskey to adjust sweetness and flavor, if desired.

 

Folks in Fort Worth in the 1880s would’ve eaten this cake—or something very similar—during the holidays. That’s exactly when and where “A Long Way from St. Louis,” my contribution to Prairie Rose Publications’s Christmas anthology A Mail-Order Christmas Bride, takes place. The book—with stories by fellow fillies Cheryl Pierson and Tanya Hanson—bows November 27, but it’s available for pre-order now at Amazon.

PRPA MAIL ORDER CHRISTMAS BRIDE WEB.JPG FINALHere’s a little about “A Long Way from St. Louis”:

Cast out by St. Louis society when her husband leaves her for another, Elizabeth Adair goes west to marry a wealthy Texas rancher. Burning with anger over the deceit of a groom who is neither wealthy nor Texan, she refuses to wed and ends up on the backstreets of Fort Worth.

Ten years after Elizabeth’s father ran him out of St. Louis, Brendan Sheppard’s memory still sizzles with the rich man’s contempt. Riffraff. Alley trash. Son of an Irish drunkard. Yet, desire for a beautiful, unattainable girl continues to blaze in his heart.

When the debutante and the ne’er-do-well collide a long way from St. Louis, they’ll either douse an old flame…or forge a new love.

 

So, readers… What dish—dessert, main course, side, or appetizer—absolutely must be part of your holidays? I’ll give an ebook version of A Mail-Order Christmas Bride to one of today’s commenters who answers that question. (All Petticoats and Pistols sweepstakes rules apply to this giveaway.)