Monday, April 24, 2017

Classic Ginger: Little Known Facts

In George Washington's days, there were no cameras. One's image was either sculpted or painted. Some paintings of George Washington showed him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back while others showed both legs and both arms. Prices charged by painters were not based on how many people were to be painted, but by how many limbs were to be painted. Arms and legs are 'limbs,' therefore painting them
would cost the buyer more. Hence the expression,
'Okay, but it'll cost you an arm and a leg.'

As incredible as it sounds, men and women took baths only twice a year (May and October)! Women kept their hair covered, while men shaved their heads (because of lice and bugs) and wore wigs. Wealthy men could afford good wigs made from wool. They couldn't wash the wigs, so to clean them they would carve out a loaf of bread, put the wig in the shell, and bake it for 30 minutes. The heat would make the wig big and fluffy, hence the term 'big wig.' Today we often use the term 'here comes the Big Wig' because someone appears to be or is powerful and wealthy.

In the late 1700s, many houses consisted of a large room with only one chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded down from the wall, and was used for dining. The 'head of the household' always sat in the chair while everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Occasionally a guest, who was usually a man, would be invited to sit in this chair during a meal. To sit in the chair meant you were important and in charge. They called the one sitting in the chair the 'chair man.' Today in business, we use the expression or title 'Chairman' or 'Chairman of the Board.'

Personal hygiene left much room for improvement. As a result, many women and men had developed acne scars by adulthood. The women would spread bee's wax over their facial skin to smooth out their complexions. When they were speaking to each other, if a woman began to stare at another woman's face she was told, 'mind your own bee's wax.' Should the woman smile, the wax would crack, hence the term 'crack a smile.' In addition, when they sat too close to the fire, the wax would melt . . . therefore, the expression 'losing face.'

Ladies wore corsets, which would lace up in the front. A proper and dignified woman, as in 'straight laced'. . wore a tightly tied lace.

Common entertainment included playing cards. However, there was a tax levied when purchasing playing cards but only applicable to the 'Ace of Spades.' To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards instead.
Yet, since most games require 52 cards, these people were thought to be stupid or dumb because they weren't 'playing with a full deck.'

Early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what the people considered important. Since there were no telephones, TV's or radios, the politicians sent their assistants to local taverns, pubs, and bars. They were told to 'go sip some ale' and listen to people's conversations and political concerns. Many assistants were dispatched at different times. 'You go sip here' and 'You go sip there.' The two words 'go sip' were eventually combined when referring to the local opinion and, thus we have the term 'gossip.'

At local taverns, pubs, and bars, people drank from pint and quart-sized containers. A bar maid's job was to keep an eye on the customers and keep the drinks coming. She had to pay close attention and remember who was drinking in 'pints' and who was drinking in 'quarts,' hence the term 'minding your 'P's and Q's.'

One more: bet you didn't know this!
In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters carried iron cannons. Those cannons fired round iron cannon balls. It was necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon. However, how to prevent them from rolling about the deck? The best storage method devised was a square-based pyramid with one ball on top, resting on four resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one to prevent the bottom layer from sliding or rolling from under the others. The solution was a metal plate called
a 'Monkey' with 16 round indentations. However, if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make 'Brass Monkeys.' Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey. Thus, it was quite literally, 'Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.' (All this time, you thought that was an improper expression, didn't you.)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Book Reviews, Love Them or Hate Them? by Connie Vines

Victoria suggested this month’s topic. Reviews - Love 'em, hate 'em or totally ignore them. Amazon tells us the more 4 or 5 reviews the better of book sales.

I ignore reviews when I purchase a book.  I am more inclined to purchase a book that has won or was a finalist in a National or International contest:  H.O.L.T Medallion, National Book Award, Independent e-Book or  Romance Writers' of America Contest.  When peers honor you, it promises  a well crafted story.  Whereas reviews are subjective or give all the plot points, or, GASP, spells our the ending!

I’ve read books with horrible reviews because I know the author and ending up loving the books. I’ve read books by Best Selling authors with  🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠 reviews, forced myself to finishing the novel and ended up bemoaning my lost cash. When I’m looking at buying or reading, I check out the topic/setting,  author, the cover, the blurb and the first page.

When it comes to my writing and garnishing of reviews,  I do place effort in the endeavor.  I blog, guest blog, toss freebies out on social media, post Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.  I've sat at rodeos, powwows, book stores, libraries, and live podcast feeds.   All resulted I a respectable number of book sales, but few online reviews.  The small publishing companies expect you to get and publish your own reviews.  Sounds easy, especially when your sales are respectable.  Unfortunately, people are more inclined to post a 'didn't like it review' much quicker than, 'I love it!'  😞--especially if the book was a free read or only cost 99 cents.

While I welcome well thought out reviews, I find the chase takes away from my writing and at that is self defeating.  This year, I'll be focusing more on promotion and branding. I believe this will result in increased sales.

I wouldn't say I hate reviews (I like a good review as much as any other author) but I appreciate a reader who runs up to me or sends me an email.  A reader who quotes my heroine, loves my hero, and cries at the end of each of my novels. I am a story teller.  And every story teller is looking for a happy ending!  Making my returning readers happy, is the best review!

 I look forward to reading what the authors have to say. I hope you read their blog posts, too.

Marci Baun
Dr. Bob Rich
Skye Taylor 
Helena Fairfax
Rachael Kosinski
A.J. Maguire
Margaret Fieland
Rhobin Courtright

Purchase here:



May Day Romance

She was moth to his flame...

An excerpt for May Day from the historical romance, My Mozart

...The forest was a living cathedral, the great columns bearing a roof of green. All the time we gradually ascended, following a path. In one place we forded a lively stream, balancing on mossy rocks that barely kept us above the chattering water.

Topping a final rise, we came at last upon the Waldhut. It sat in a small clearing, dwarfed by the biggest pine trees I had ever seen. Smoke trailed from the chimney and a fire also crackled out front, snapping sparks. From the greasy cloud rising from a blackened, steaming rock pile, I knew that a pig had already gone into the pit. There was another smell, too, the welcome fragrance of coffee.

Among the musicians and dancers were handymen and servants, all sharing in the cheerful equality of the day. As Barbara and I laid blankets at the edge of the clearing atop a thick blanket of pine needles, I spied, further back in the woods, a green tent. Stage shrieks emanated from it.

"Gott! The usual bawdy house atmosphere." Barbara took me by the arm and pulled me toward the fire. "You, Blumechen, are to stay far, far away from that tent."

The clearing had the look of an impromptu marketplace, with stacks of rugs and laden baskets. Three children suddenly bounded out the door of the summerhouse, pushing past like unruly dogs. Two boys and a girl, they wore bright lumpy peasant’s clothing.

Who did they remind me of, with their broad laughing faces and thick wild hair?

"Schikaneder's." Barbara answered my unspoken question. "Three different mothers, but look at them, alike as peas in a pod. He keeps a regular herd at some farm near Josephplatz."

Turks, I thought, weren't the only men to keep harems.

Going into the Waldhut with Barbara, we found a trestle table set with breads, butter, cheese and those expensive luxuries, coffee and sugar. With cups in hand we stood around the table with the Schacks, who were already inside eating. At last, in spite of the strong, sugary coffee and so many gay companions, I was sleepier than ever. Barbara and I, after looking at each other and yawning, agreed we couldn't keep our eyes open much longer.

Going into the yard, we collected our things and carried them to an area screened from the clearing by flowering trees. Here, close to the prone form of an ancient pine, we spread our blankets. Ferns and clusters of tiny white and lavender flowers dotted the ground. Barbara fussed at me to hurry and settle, but I spent time carefully finding a spot where the blanket wouldn't crush them.

"Shall I sing my little girl a lullaby?" Barbara leaned back against the fallen tree and kicked off her shoes.

"Yes if you please, Frau Gerl."

Behind us, the clearing grew quiet. There seemed to be a unanimous decision that it was time for a nap. While Barbara softly serenaded me with an old nursery song, I bunched up my shawl for a pillow. A root that felt like a big toe stuck into my side, so I moved my hips. The last conscious thought I had was that I'd never be able to fall asleep here...

I stood with a group of women among the pines. I could hear a bright tune, perfect for a romp, but my companions were still as statues. In their midst was a man, an angel of a man, a man I almost recognized.
Golden curls haloed his face and he wore a crown of laurel leaves, like Apollo. When he beckoned, one of my companions would rise and walk like a sleepwalker into his arms, where she would be embraced and kissed. Melting, the woman would crumple to the ground at his feet and remain there, eyes raised toward his shining face, apparently quite stricken with love..."

~~Juliet Waldron

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Husband in Kitchen...

                                     The hot dog, spicy chickpea, fresh cut pineapple early effort.   ;)

Every wife/working woman knows that after years of having her husband at his office all day, when he retires, things change around the house.  Mine retired and flopped around for several years before hitting on something to do with all this new time on his hands. I suggested that there were things he could do around here which would be helpful—instead of just micro-managing me, reading The Economist, and playing solitaire. Eventually, he took something up.

Typically—at least, I think it’s typical—the tasks he decided he’d like to take over were also the ones I most enjoyed most about housework—shopping and cooking. Somehow, women are always left with the scrubbing, mopping, vacuuming, and cleaning of bathrooms, the least favorite parts of the routine. We must have it written on our foreheads, or on some stone tablet with a curse on it somewhere:  “Woman, Thou Shalt Clean ***Toilets and Vacuum Cat Hair off the furniture to the End of thy Days.”

Anyhow, at last he took up doing something, so the food stuff is now mostly off my to-do list. I need to mention that he’s not much of a yard work or DIY guy either. Not going to launch into painting, or even mowing when it’s the season for that. I do half the mowing and at least half of the snow shoveling, so I’m standing by my man on those fronts, but I sometimes wish he had more of a bent for DIY. We’ve got a carpet in the unfinished basement that could probably qualify as a super fund site, but I digress.

First of all, he “learned shopping.” This, before he started cooking, entailed  annoyed calls from the supermarket to ask me what the hell my handwriting says, or what the hell is that ingredient and where the hell can that "weird-ass" ingredient be found? There’s a small locally owned supermarket that we’ve patronized for the last 30 years, so I pretty much have the place memorized.

There are pitfalls, however. The other day he returned with two sacks of yellow onions because they were a two-fer. I didn’t see how we were ever going to use two sacks. After all, there are only two of us! So they sat on the counter, withering, until this weekend I thought of a frugal solution: onion soup. Hating to throw anything away like a good Yankee, I suggested he chop them up. He, chef-like, has been working on his knife handling skills.

He chopped meticulously and produced an entire mixing bowl filled to the top with onions. Then with butter, salt, and low heat, I slowly stirred them over medium/high for a very long time, while they cooked down and down and down and finally changed color. Next came the chicken stock, added a little at a time, all the while cooking and cooking, reducing and reducing, and at the end, a LOT of Parmesan, quickly whisked in.  It took us about three hours, but eventually we’d produced about six bowls of very tasty onion soup. (Not yet ready for Chopped, I fear.) And yet, 3+ hours for onion soup...not the 30 minute meals that I spent my entire life putting together after I fell in the door after a full day at the office.

Now, however, he's begun a new obsession which is -- drum roll, please -- cooking Indian food.  The approach is singularly male. At least, I think it's gender oriented because it involves, first of all, the acquisition of lots of specialized tools and ingredients. First, he had to buy cookbooks. Second, he proceeded to map out all the Indian groceries in the area and scout them, recipes in hand. here, He stressed out all the barely English-speaking staff with questions about where to find the Kari Leaves...

We've acquired two large plastic tubs under the worktable (my stuff has, of course, been moved) filled with lots of little glass jars + lids  and an aluminum pot called a masala wala which contains six smaller pots. These are filled with genuine, direct from the Indian grocery spices--he now scorns Mr. McCormicks' offerings--as well as several 1/2 tsp. spoons with which to measure. The coffee grinder has been commandeered to process whole coriander, black pepper, whole cinnamon sticks and cumin seeds. Serrano peppers are a regular on the shopping list. The mini-blender is permanently stained red pepper and tumeric orange.

When I do get into the kitchen to make something like an old-fashioned split pea soup in the slow cooker, or a pork and kraut supper, he simply doesn't eat it. So, I've resigned. At least he doesn't expect me to do the dishes for him--he tried to turn me into his dishwasher, but as he uses every single pot, pan, spoon, ladle, spatula we own for each meal he makes, I wasn't going to fall for that.  

In all fairness, he's making us quite delicious meals, spicy vindaloo, saag, and briyani. Today it was chicken tandoori, which was absolutely wonderful. This dish requires marinating in five spices and lemon juice, then basting with yogurt sauce and then baking.

Heaven help me, though, if he starts to order (online) Ganges clay in order to construct an authentic wood-fired tandoori oven in the backyard...

~~Juliet Waldron

18th Century and 15th Century novels, as well as 19th Century fantasy and rural romance

A Master Passion, Mozart's Wife, Roan Rose, Genesee & Hand-me-Down Bride aButterfly Bride
and many others.

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