Friday, May 26, 2017

Museum Gift Shops—a guilty pleasure

I’m going out on a limb here and admitting a particular weakness for museum gift shops.  I’m among friends, right? And no one will think less of me.  Not long ago, my husband and I took a 2-day trip to Tombstone in southern Arizona. He wanted to see the famous sights (OK Corral, Birdcage Theatre, Boothill Graveyard), and as an author of western historicals, I’m always looking for research opportunities.

Who knew all that history occurred in an area that is only three blocks long and four blocks wide? We started at the courthouse museum and I could have spent the entire day there. Great exhibits and specimens with detailed descriptions. We saw such a thorough depiction of the shootout of the OK Corral (and a carefully researched rebuttal) that we didn’t feel the need to sit in the hot sun to watch the reenactment.

For me, the real treasures are the books in the gift shop. The ones that have a narrow focus and are usually written by people who live in that geographic area. Children’s books featuring desert animals from the region, recipe books using native plants, biographies of famous people involved with the locale. (I did carry around at least one of these three types before making my final decision.) Because I live in a small cabin with limited shelf space, I truly had to restrain my buying habits but couldn’t resist three titles. One highlighted Arizona mining towns, another included stories of frontier female doctors or nurses, and the last was a picture book about Tombstone. I never know when one tidbit of first-hand information will be the exact fact I need to make my historical stories as authentic as they can be. So many research books, such limited shelf space. Sigh.

Anyone else confess to a similar guilty pleasure?

My only book so far set in Arizona was part of the American Mail-Order Brides series titled Libbie: Bride of Arizona. Alone for the first time, tomboyish Libbie Van Eycken accepts a mail-order proposal and travels across country to find a place to call her own. Arizona rancher Dell Stirling needs a wife but didn’t count on the eccentric creature that brings chaos in her wake.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

You Sidewinder!

Yikes! As if traveling on the trails westward weren't hard enough, the west and most of the United States is inhabited by rattlesnakes. Only Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine are free of poisonous snakes.

Now, most of the time a snake will slither away without a fight, but when they do strike, ouch!

And the baby snakes are worse than the adults. The reason being most of the time a baby will inject a full load of venom. Many a stock animal was bit and lost and occasionally people. The bite is not always fatal, but they are always painful. 

The treatment we see on TV and in the movies ~ cutting the bite area and sucking out the poison ~  is not used any more. Instead, keep still, get to a doctor, and try to identify the species of snake - without getting bitten of course. 

Other remedies usually included whiskey, tobacco, salt, eggs, and kerosene and gunpowder as well as poultice from various roots and plants. Many people no doubt survived because snakes don't always get a large enough dose of venom into the bite. 

Early newspapers on the prairie often included snake bite events and told if the victim survived or not. Those that died were often the young or old. Sometimes, their death may well have been more from the remedies as the bite. Some of the roots can cause death as well as great amounts of whiskey.

So watch yourself out there. Spring and summer spell snake weather. People are still bitten today. While their prognosis is better than their counterparts of the old west, five-six still die each year from poisonous snake bites.

Hope you enjoyed this slithery post about snakes. Think back to all the brave pioneers who marched through the country enduring all sort of hardship and give them a hearty thumbs up.
Have a blessed day!
I love to write stories about the old west and the brave men and women who settled our nation. You can find my books on Amazon under Patricia PacJac Carroll.  

My latest book is The Judge's Bride 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Receipts of the 1800s - Part 2

I'm a bit of a book pack rat. The annual Friends of the Library sale in Honolulu, Hawaii, is my crack... errr laudanum. I have more books than I could possibly read in  my lifetime and perhaps a few more besides. Part of my excessive collection is comprised of Civil War Era Ladies Magazines bound by year.

I thought I'd share some of the 'gems' I found in these editions, as it fits the Old West/Historical books that I write and I think it informs the world around my characters.

The first thing to note is that Recipes were called RECEIPTS. When I mentioned Receipts on another blog, people always wanted to correct me. I completely understand why, since we don't use Receipts in that manner in our modern world.

**Please Keep in Mind that I have NOT tested any of these recipes, so try them at your own risk**

Today, I have a trio of soups!!

Vegetable Soup. – Four quarts of cold water, a half-pint of small barley, and two tablespoonsful of beef dripping, or a lump of fat from cold roast beef, or any fat from meat which is not otherwise needed; a teaspoonful of salt; of pepper, half a teaspoonful.  Let this boil gently for two hours, the four quarts will then be reduced to two. Shred up two large well-cleaned carrots in slices not too thick, also four large onions finely shred or chopped, two heads of celery, and three or four turnips cut up in very small pieces; put all these in when the soup is boiling. Let it boil gently for an hour and a half. Mix in a basin, a piled tablespoonful of flour with a little cold water till it is like cream; burn in an iron spoon, a teaspoonful of moist sugar till it resembles treacle.  Pour on this a little boiling water, and mix it with the flour, then pour the whole into the soup, stir it well, let it simmer once, and the soup is ready.

Godey’s Lady’s Magazine 1864

Carrot Soup. – Take six or eight full-grown carrots, scrape them clean, and rasp only the outer rind, or soft red part, and if you have a ripe tomato, add it, sliced, to the raspings, but use no other vegetable except onions.  While this is being done, the brother of any kind of fresh meat which has been got ready should be heated and seasoned with a couple of onions fried in butter, but without pepper, or any other kind of seasoning, except a small quantity of mace and a little salt; put the raspings into two quarts of the skimmed broth, cover the stewpan close, and let it simmer by the side of the fire for two or three hours, by which time the raspings will have become soft enough to be pulped through a fine sieve; after which the soup should be boiled until it is as smooth as jelly, for any curdy appearance will spoil it.

Godey’s Lady’s Magazine 1864

LOBSTER SOUP (French). – This soup is certainly most excellent, and worth all the care which must be bestowed upon it.  Take three young lobsters, boiled, or four small ones; take out the meat and cut it in small square pieces; take out the coral, not the berries, pound it so as to separate it, and sift it through a coarse strainer; take two quarts of good veal stock, quite a jelly, and cold; add to it the berries bruised, a tablespoonful of anchovy sauce, two ounces of butter, melted before the fire, into which rub two tablespoonfuls of flour; put it into the stock with a blade of mace, let it boil for ten minutes, then strain it:  add to it the meat of the lobsters and the whole of the coral, stir it up so as to make all thoroughly warm, but  if it now boils the color will be lost; put half a teaspoonful of anchovy sauce into it and sent it very hot to table.  Forcemeat ball, of minced meat out of the head of the lobster, with the soft part, the tips of the tails, and other scraps, some bread crums, a teaspoonful of flour, a few minced shrimps, and a very little grated nutmeg, mixed together with the yelk only of an egg, made into balls the size of marbles, and fried, should be thrown on the top of the soup directly it goes to table.

Godey’s Lady’s Magazine 1864

NOTE: you may see some words that 'look' like I didn't know how to spell, but I have typed the entries here as they are printed in the book itself.

Thanks for getting hungry with me today!

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Reina Torres on Amazon

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


By Kathryn Albright

I am excited to share the release of my newest book with you!

(First - a little introduction. By the way, this isn't the cover...)

When twins, Mary and Maggie McCary are caught selling
their family tonic without a permit,
they're forced to agree to become mail-order brides to stay out of jail.
Taking the train to Oak Grove, the pair are separated--
For Mary, falling off the Oak Grove train
into Steve Putnam's lap changes everything.
Could he be the cowboy to tempt her down the aisle?
And running from trouble, Maggie doesn't intend to actually marry...
until she shares one sensational kiss with Jackson Miller!

When the mayor discovers the twins' side business and their plans
to avoid the bride contract, things begin to fall apart for the sisters.
They both have a lot to learn about the men of Oak Grove...and likewise,
the men have a lot to learn about these two McCarys!

Twin sisters say "I do" in the Wild West!

Sweet and sassy and double the trouble, when twins Mary and Maggie sign contracts to become mail-order brides with every intention of escaping before the actual wedding!

Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove kicks off a new series by Laurie Robinson and me.
I loved collaborating while she wrote Mary's story and I wrote Maggie's.
These are two young women with a penchant for fun and trouble.
Mary and Maggie's youth and unconventional upbringing make their view of life slightly skewed from other "normal folk. Rules don't apply in the regular sense. They turn Steve and Jackson's lives into two big knots with their shenanigans!

Today is the release day for paperback and on June 1st, it will be available in eBook format. Here is the link to Order!

I hope that you enjoy this short excerpt ~
"Taming the Runaway Bride" from Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove

~  * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The worst of the screeching subsided as the engine shuddered and then slowed to a turtle’s crawl.

Her three companions created a fair wall with their noses pressed to the glass. Maggie could only see bits and pieces of the town moving by through the spaces between the three—Miss Know-it-all Rebecca, Miss Quiet-and Quaint Sadie, and Miss Gullible Anna. She couldn’t understand why they were excited about a new beginning and gaining a husband along with it. She certainly wasn’t. That’s all her life had been for as long as she could remember—always a new city, a new town, a new horizon. A seed didn’t have time to flower, nor dust to settle, the way her family lived. And she sure didn’t plan to get yoked to a man. A man would only complicate things between her and her sister. 

He might even separate them.

But while she was here, she would like to see a real cowboy. One with boots…and a Stetson. Or one of those ten gallon hats that the other girls had been giggling about. Did cowboys always wear spurs? These were things a girl should know.

She stored the deck of cards in her satchel. It wouldn’t do to lose them. She might have need of a little spending money or even a little “get out of town” money.

She stepped behind Anna to peer over her shoulder. From this position all she saw was a small sea of dusty and dirty cowboy hats and bowlers. A few men waved faded flags—bleached by the sun and whipped by the prairie wind.

She swallowed. Men. All men. At least thirty of them. She rose to her tip-toes in order to see better.
Some were really young, but most looked middlin’ to old. A few appeared…weathered. One thing was obvious—no two of the men staring back from the station platform were the same. They were all shapes and sizes. And whether they wore big grins or not as they vied for the front row, they all looked curious to see who would be stepping off the train. Some, she noticed uncomfortably, appeared eager—a bit too eager.

With that thought she shrank back and looked in the seat behind her for her sister. Where had she disappeared to so fast? This bride contract had been her idea from the start. She should be here.

“Oh! I see the one I want!” Anna squealed, her voice blending with the last screech of the brakes.

The train shuddered horrendously to a complete stop. With it, a band started up. A band? A trumpet played Oh! Susanna! and was joined by the beat of a drum and the trill of a fife.

Panic seized Maggie. She wasn’t ready for this! “I have to find Mary,” she croaked out. Swaying slightly, she headed toward the back end of the rail-car. She wanted to be with her sister when she faced the men gathered outside—not with these women she’d known only a handful of days.
The door before her swung open.

“Well now, Miss McCary,” the conductor said, raising his bushy brows. “A bit anxious I’d say.”

She glared at him. He was in league with the sheriff back in Bridgeport—that scoundrel.

Behind him, a man from the platform climbed the steps, pausing when he arrived at the top as if the exertion winded him. He was dressed in his Sunday best, right down to the gold watch fob and chain dangling from his black satin vest. The suit appeared a bit small at the neck…and other places. 

Probably cutting off his breath judging by the redness of his face. He peered first at her and then at the other women behind her as he blotted a trace of sweat on his forehead.  

“Welcome to Cedar Grove, ladies. I’m Mayor Melbourne.” He paused, looking over the four of them. The welcoming mien dissolved and he turned to the conductor. “Where are the rest?”

The man fumbled in his pocket, withdrew a sealed envelope and handed it to the mayor.

Mayor Melbourne pressed his lips together. He slipped his wire glasses from his vest pocket and settled them on the bridge of his nose, bending the ear wires over his ears. Then he broke the wax seal on the envelope and quickly read the contents. If possible his face reddened further.

“Not coming!” he sputtered. “Not coming! I asked for twelve and all that answered the call are these four?”

“Actually, Mayor, that would be five,” Rebecca said from over Maggie’s left shoulder. “Mary McCary is also with us…somewhere.”

“Five, you say? The committee sent enough money for twelve. My brother has some answering to do.” He read the letter again, the perturbed look on his face slowly settling into resignation as he folded the paper and stuffed it in his pocket. “Very well. Ladies? Welcome. Please come meet your town.”

She sensed Anna, Sadie and Rebecca gathering in force behind her. “What about our things?” she asked quickly, hoping to stall a few minutes longer.

“Plenty of men here to see to them,” the mayor said. “Please follow me. As you can see, they are anxious to have a look at …I mean…meet you.”

Behind her, the others pressed forward, prodding her out the door and onto the steps. A blast of warm Kansas wind swirled around her and picked up her skirt.

“Whoo-wee!” a man in front called out. “Got a looker right off!”

Her cheeks heated as she struggled to subdue the billowing purple cotton and then she focused on the gawker, raising her chin defiantly and fixing him with a bold glare. She would make sure never to find herself alone with him.

He grinned. “Got spirit too! She’s mine. Might as well just check her off your list, men. She’s mine! Whoo-ee!”

“Not unless you take a bath and wash off that cow smell, Rader,” someone yelled back. A round of chuckles from a few of the others followed.

Behind her, Sadie, Rebecca and Anna must have crowded into view for a cheer went up from the men. “Hip-hip-hooray!” Several even threw their hats into the air and the small band played louder at a furious pace.

Four strong-looking men stepped forward and with a great deal more enthusiasm than the situation called for, took hold of her upper-arms and whisked her—her body floating through the air—down the last two steps to the platform.

She wasn’t ready for this! Where in heaven’s name was Mary?

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove
Copyright by Harlequin Books & Kathryn Albright

Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

Visit Kathryn to find out more about her books!

Monday, May 22, 2017


Something Sweet - Sorghum... 

During my research into historical cake recipes. I discovered sweet sorghum. Being from the UK I’m a shame to say I’d never heard of it until now. It was a sweet and interesting discovery.

For those of you who are like me and don't what sorghum is. Its a grass like plant with tops that look like heads of corn. The stalk is sweet consisting of a high sugar content. This plant thrives better in dry, warm weather, and can be found in  Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Although the United States refer to some sweet syrup as molasses a byproduct of sugar cane, sugar beet extraction. Sweet sorghum syrup is known as "sorghum molasses" in some regions of the U.S .

The stem has a multi purpose, the grain can be used for food, or fuel in the form of ethanol from the stem juice, and fodder from its leaves. Sweet sorghum was widely cultivated in the U.S. since the 1850's for use as a sweeteners and alternative to sugar.

Horse-driven, antique sorghum-cane juicer being operated at an organic farm in central North Carolina, for syrup production - source  of image to follow.

I not sure if I'm sharing something that everyone, but me already knows about, but for me it was an interesting fact and something new for me to add to my growing data bank of knowledge of U.S history. Here in the UK my knowledge of sweeteners was limited to sugarcane, sugar beet  and maple syrup along with a variety of artificial sweeteners. Through the power of sweet sorghum I feel a little more Americanized :)

Wishing you the reader, an awesome day and start to your week.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The First Female Justice of the Peace in the World--Wyoming Leads the Way Again!

by Heather Blanton

Recently I was doing some research and discovered that the first female justice of the peace in the civilized world was Esther Hobart Morris, a resident of South Pass City, Wyoming (now a ghost town). In 1870, she was tapped to serve as the town’s lone judicial officer. A woman with no legal background whatsoever.

Why? Why choose her?

The funny thing is, after researching it, I’m not sure I’ve got the answer. I have a theory, but is it right?

We know that Esther, born in New York, but orphaned at a young age, apprenticed for a while to a seamstress. Ambitious and intelligent, she translated those sewing skills into a successful millinery. Esther not only had an independent streak as far as taking care of herself, she also had some strong opinions on suffrage and slavery and was involved with several politically active groups.

After eight years of pursuing her own financial independence, however, she gave it up to marry Artemus Slack in 1841. Perhaps she was thinking she could lighten up, settle down, enjoy some simple domesticity. Death, however, wasn’t’ done stalking Esther. Three years into the marriage, Artemus died, leaving her alone with a young son.

Esther immediately took stock of her options and realized her late husband had property in Illinois. Thinking she would inherit it and all of his holdings, she moved there to claim it and start over. Unfortunately, in Illinois women were not allowed to own property–inherited or otherwise.

This didn’t sit well with Esther and she fought the legal knot for as long as she could, but to no avail. Six years after Artie’s death, she married John Morris, a successful Illinois merchant. In ’68, he and Esther’s son, Archie, moved to South Pass City, Wyoming to attempt to capitalize on the gold strike there by opening a new mercantile. A year later, Esther and her two children from the marriage with John joined them. By the time they arrived, however, the town was going bust. The population had dropped almost overnight from 2000 residents in ’68 to only 460 in 1870.

In that same year, a district court judge asked Esther to serve as a justice of the peace—I emphasize, a woman with no legal background. Apparently it took a little prodding, and a willingness to override her husband’s objections, but Esther accepted, was voted in by the town commission, and became the first known female justice of the peace in the US, probably the world. Really. The story got national attention.

She replaced official R.S. Barr who had resigned the post in a fit of rage. The state of Wyoming had just passed legislation giving—gasp!— women the right to vote. Barr was livid over the insanity and stepped down in protest. So, naturally, a woman was appointed to replace him. As one of her first official acts, Esther had the man arrested because he wouldn’t release his docket to her court. She went on to adjudicate 26 (possibly 27) cases, none of which were overturned, though a few were challenged. By all accounts, she did a competent job.

Now, all this brings us back to the question, why nominate Esther in the first place?

Here’s my theory.

She was friends with William Bright, a South Pass City resident who, though a Southerner, had fought for the North. I imagine the two would have talked in detail about their hatred of slavery and inequality. Bright, it turns out, was the man who wrote the suffrage bill that Wyoming turned into law—the law giving women the right to vote. It’s not a stretch to think he could have had input from Esther on the wording. She was intelligent, articulate, and passionate about the subject.

Simultaneously, the new territorial governor, John Campbell, was looking around Wyoming trying to identify friendly judges and, if necessary, replacements to unfriendly judges. R.S. Barr, South Pass City’s JOP, did Campbell a favor by resigning. Someone needed to assume his office, though. Hmmm. Who could they get?

I think Bright saw what poetic justice it would be to appoint a woman. It didn’t hurt that Esther’s husband was a respected businessman, her children were all grown, and one of her sons ran a newspaper. Not to mention, in a town of four hundred people, there weren’t that many women from which to choose. In fact, in a mining town, there probably weren’t that many women who came out in the daylight, if you know what I mean.

Esther, with her opinions, connections, and business and political background, was a perfect fit. Politics being an incestuous mess, I’m sure it was not difficult for Bright to contact district judge John Kingman and suggest he nominate her for the seat. Hence, Esther Morris made history … and a few enemies.

At least one of whom was her husband.

When her term was up, Esther couldn’t cajole an endorsement from either party, and, therefore, couldn't run again. Coincidentally, a few months later her son’s newspaper in town burned to the ground. He and his wife moved to Laramie. Shortly thereafter, Esther kissed South Pass City and her husband good bye and headed back to New York. I get the sense it wasn't a friendly parting.

Esther bounced around some over the next couple of decades, living in New York and Illinois, spending summers in Wyoming, and supporting the suffrage cause. She spent her last years living with her son Robert and his family in Cheyenne. The old gal passed away there in 1902, blessed to have seen slavery go away, and women go to the polls. She never remarried. Not a very romantic ending, I suppose, but a judicious one. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

WHO AM I? A Belated Introduction

Post (c) Angela Raines/Doris McCraw

Pikes Peak at Sunset

 As you can see by the byline, I'm two different people. Both are very private, introverted yet gregarious when necessary. When friends were asked to describe Doris, the offered the following pieces of information:

She is and has been a tremendously talented actress, she is also a very extravagant singer as well!
Started acting at age 2 ½
"Mom" to the young. Doesn't take guff. Tells people to "Just do it!"
Has a dry or sarcastic sense of humor which when one stands back and watches it unfold, it's really funny and entertaining. 
In college was in the “New Frontiers” trio? (We were something of a hit in Denver, IL!)
Played the role of ‘Olive’ in the female version of “The Odd Couple”, and once performed as Helen Hunt Jackson on a moving bus!
Directed a film
Directed a stage productions including  “Inspecting Carol”
Love rock music, Alice Cooper, Rush, etc. along with Western, Classical, Folk and Broadway music
Like to stop in the middle of the road to allow her passengers to take pictures

Both Doris and Angela share the following creative endeavors:

Doris spent over three years writing haiku five days a week and posting on a haiku blog along with sharing the photographs she takes while out and about.

Doris has written three 'scholar' papers for the regional history series in Colorado Springs: 'Still Life to Reel Life, the story of  Karol W. Smith' in the "Film and Photography on the Front Range" book, 'The Cripple Creek Volcano: a 35 million year disaster' in the "Disasters of the Pikes Peak Region", and soon to be published "Myths and Mysteries of the Rocky Mountain West" which should have the chapter 'Doc Susie & Hollywood: Myths of 19th Century Women Doctors in Colorado'.

Both love to hike and take trips to the mountains. Of course research is a passion and Doris is considered an expert on the women doctors in Colorado prior to 1900.

Both have always been storytellers according to relatives. Doris was writing plays as young as six and continued to write 'mysteries' for Red Herring Productions, the murder mystery company she was a part of for 19 years.

Angela was born in 2014 with the publication of her first novella, "Home for His Heart" an Agate Gulch Story. Since that time Angela has published two additional Agate Gulch stories, "Never Had A Chance" and "Gift of Forgiveness."

 Her two other Western Romance stories are: "Angel of Salvation Valley" and "Josie's Dream" part of the amazing 'Grandma's Wedding Quilt' series. 

Angela also has two Medieval Stories available: "Lost Knight" and "North Star", that are part of Christmas anthologies from Prairie Rose Publications.

So what does the future hold for this two in one person? More writing, more research and lots more hikes and photographs. What's in the future for you?

Doris Gardner-McCraw writing as Angela Raines is an Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in Colorado and Women's History

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 

Photo and Poem: Click Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here