December 26, 2012


New Year's Eve celebrations today are a little different than they were back in the nineteenth century. Hogmanay or New Year's Eve was a Scots custom that spread to the British Isles and then was brought to America by immigrants.  Celebrations by the English and the Welch included recitations of traditional rhymes. The Swedes and Finns celebrated by firing off their guns. On New Year's day the ladies stayed at home to exchange New Year's greetings with a string of gentlemen callers.

If you were a teen living back then, you may have seen fireworks just like we do today.  Fireworks were  introduced in the United States very early in our history.  The first fireworks display was on the 4th of July, 1777, just a year after our independence. A resident of Philadelphia would have seem mummers dressed in costume parade through the streets, although the first organized Mummer's Parade wasn't until 1901.

Several traditions that we have today were not in place yet at the turn of the twentiety century.  The song Auld Lang Syne (roughly translated to "for (the sake of) old times"), although written as a poem by Robert Burns in 1788, wasn't widely known as a song in America until Guy Lombardo and his band introduced it on New Year's Eve in 1929. It soon became a classic played at midnight to ring in the New Year.  We've all seen the iconic image of the New Year's Eve ball drop in Times Square as midnight chimes, but it wasn't until 1907 that the first ball was installed.

December 21, 2012

Medicine in the Nineteenth Century: Holiday Cheer

At this season of the year feasts and celebrations abound.  Here is an excerpt from "The Common School Question Book and Review" (around 1880 - 1904) which demonstrates what a teacher was expected to know and share with students:

Q.  Mention the evils arising from rapid eating.

A.  1rst.  The food is swallowed without suffucient saliva.  2nd.  The particles of food are so large as to hinder the action of the digestive juice, which is often weakened by the use of drinks poured down with the food.  3rd.  We do not realize the quantity eaten until the stomach is overloaded.  4th.  Failing to get the taste of our food we think it insipid, and resort to condiments which over stimulate the digestive organs.

Although we know much more about the physiology and biochemistry of digestion today, the basic principle applies:  Slow down and enjoy!

December 19, 2012

Cover Art Received for The Secret Society of Sugar and Spice


I just got the final cover art for my new book, The Secret Society of Sugar and Spice, due for release in March, 2013. The artist at Whiskey Creek Press, Harrie Channing, did a marvelous job of capturing the tension between the two main characters and the gritty nature of the cave deep beneath the orphanage.
                    Click here to read the back cover blurb

December 6, 2012

Author's Notes: A Book for Traveling

In Big Stone Heart, our heroine Carrie Smith, travels by train to meet her groom-to-be, a man she has never met.  To while away the hours, she opens a book, Gulliver's Travels:

        "She soon tired of watching the other passengers and opened her book, Gulliver’s Travels. Carrie became absorbed in the story.  With a start, she felt the train lurch forward, then stop.  It lurched again and she heard the porter yell “All aboard”.  Slowly the train moved down the tracks, clanking and puffing.  She watched the platforms and columns slide by the window as the train slowly left the depot.
        Carrie felt a thrill of pride and expectation – pride for making it to the station and onto the train on her own.  Expectation for the adventure to come.  The train let out a high shrill whistle, which matched her exhilaration at being on her own and on her way to her new future."

Gulliver's Travels, written by Jonathan Swift, was first published in 1726 and amended in 1735. It has proven so popular that it has never been out of print. The book was readily available at the time our story takes place (1886). It is listed for sale in the Bloomingdale's Catalog of 1886, The Montgomery Ward Catalog of 1895 and the 1897 Sears and Roebuck Catalog. Over time it has been made into several movies, TV and radio shows. The most recent movie in 2011 starred Jack Black (not very good in my opinion ,the movie, that is).

In the story, Gulliver is washed ashore after a shipwreck to find himself a prisoner of tiny six inch people, the inhabitants of the island of Lilliput. The introduction to the book notes that Gulliver's love of travel proves to be his downfall. And what of Carrie - does her journey prove to be her undoing?

December 4, 2012

A Real Treasure

Yesterday, my husband and I went antiquing in the small town of Wilmot, South Dakota.  We visited The Old Hospital Antiques on the main street.  The antique store occupies a building that was once a hospital in the early 1900's.  Upstairs, the small hospital rooms with transomes over the doors and floor to ceiling windows are still there as are the cabinets where supplies were kept.  What tales those walls could tell!

While browsing through the books, I uncovered a real find:  "The Common School Question Book and Review" by Isaac Hinton Brown published by A. Flanagan Co.  Although there is no publication date, Mr. Brown died in 1889 and most of  his other books were published from 1880 - 1898.  I did an extensive search on the net and could not find a referenece to this particular book so it may be rather rare. It appears to be a book for teachers who were reviewing for certification examinations  and includes helpful discussions on topics for use in the classroom.  There are handwritten notes, drawings and even pressed leaves between the pages.  What a wonderful resource! 

One section is called "Memory Gems" with the following instructions: "Pupils should memorize one of the following gems each day, which should be placed on the blackboard".  Can't you just see it - at the top of the blackboard, in the teachers neat, careful script:

"Of all the schoolrooms in east or west, the schoolroom of nature I love the best."

Expect to see more material from this wonderful book in future posts, especially Carol's Quaint Quotes.

December 2, 2012

Book Signing and Book Sale

I had a fun book signing at The Rendevous Point in Wilmot, South Dakota, on Friday and a successful book sale at the Community Center in Ortonville, Minnesota, yesterday! Thank you to everyone who bought my book, Big Stone Heart.

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