Friday, October 22, 2021

Were Cooks More Instinctual in the Past?


For the story I finished this week, Ginger Cake by Glynna, I showed my character in the kitchen a lot--after all, she owns a bakery in 1876 Astoria, Oregon. She’s also the third generation in the family to run it, so the business has been around a while. One facet of cooking and baking that we in our current time take for granted is standard utensils for measuring.

From reading cookbooks of the era, I knew teacups and thimbles were listed in recipes. But think of teacups you’ve seen or might have in your cupboard. They are not a standard size. My paternal grandmother cooked by feel and sight. She always used the same mixing bowl and had been making certain recipes long enough that she just knew what the right amount of flour was supposed to look like in the bottom of that bowl. One time I asked to be taught to make her from-scratch egg noodles. She talked me through scooping out enough flour, using a big spoon, and measuring the salt in the palm of my hand. But after I broke the eggs into the bowl and was ready to add the water, I was nudged aside because she said the amount of water varied and it was based on the feel of the dough while mixing. Needless to say, I did not learn to make Grandma Mary’s noodles. In later years, when I attempted a recipe from a cookbook, they didn’t taste the same.

image from wikimedia

But I did learn that utensils used as a standard for measured ingredients weren’t “invented” until 1896 by Fannie Farmer. As director of The Boston Cook School and author of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, she saw a standardized measure for dry ingredients as an essential tool in the kitchen.  She is credited with inventing measuring cups and spoons.  (Although interesting this fact didn’t help me in my 1876 story)  A standard measurement for liquid was even more distant from my setting because Pyrex wasn’t invented until 1910. My solution came from another field altogether.:)

image from wikimedia

My conclusion is that all those 19th-century women cooking meals and baking bread in sodhouses or on farms, ranches, or in city row houses had a good instinct for the ratio between dry and wet ingredients to produce the desired dish. I also think a lot of experimentation went on. So go pull out the drawer that holds your measuring implements and take a moment to appreciate Miss Fannie Farmer and what she devised that makes preparing our meals easier.

BLURB for Ginger Cake by Glynna, book 7, Old Timey Holiday Kitchen releases 10/25/21

Baker Glynna Shaughnessy wants to bolster sales for her struggling bakery almost as much as she wants to revive her drab personal life. A baking competition in commemoration of the city’s incorporation offers a chance at making the shop’s name known…until she’s accused of cheating. According to the competition’s sponsor—a roguish man who sets her heart aflutter—Glynna can only remain a contestant if she invents a brand-new recipe…something she’s never done before.

Hotel manager Ritter Anton has six months to boost patronage at his grandfather’s Anton Grand Hotel. He accomplished success with the family’s Cheyenne hotel and he’ll succeed here then move to the next. The baking contest he invented sparks controversy with the entry of a baker who others claim has an unfair advantage. Ready to reject her, he can’t say no when the auburn-haired beauty pleads her case. How will he remain neutral as a judge when all he can think about is Glynna?

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021




Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

So you may wonder why I chose ‘Some Thoughts on History’ as the subject of this post. Quite simply, I’m constantly in awe of what I find as I research and write. What history has to share with those who look is priceless. 

Perhaps the thoughts of thinkers, who also have their own ideas on the subject, might be of interest to you. While we may not always agree on interpretation, to know history is to know ourselves.

9-10-2011 end of season trip 136
Photo property of the author

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Winston S. Churchill

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” Michael Crichton

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” George Orwell

“History, like love, is so apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere of imaginary brightness.” James Fenimore Cooper 

“Study the past if you would define the future.” Confucius

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” Carl Sagan

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?” Marcus Tullius Circero

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”  Rudyard Kipling

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” Winston S Churchill

“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”  Elie Wiesel

2-19-2013 023

Some quotes are funny, some thoughtful. and others controversial. All are important, for history is who we are, and to delve into that well of knowledge is something that is precious to ourselves and those who will follow after. 


I used history as a backdrop for my novel "The Outlaw's Letter". Below is an excerpt.

"Well young lady, if you'll take it easy, and do as I and Maudie say, I think you're going to make a full recovery.” Then turning to Maude he added, “At this point, I don't see any reason for me coming back until next Monday."

Hetty nodded, saying, "Thank you, sir, I appreciate all you have done."

The doctor patted her hand and after a quick examination of Hetty's head walked with Maude to the door giving her instructions. He waved and headed back to town.

Just before he left, he whispered to Maude, “Take care, try not to let her get upset. She doesn’t know what went on, and I leave it to you to break it to her gently.”

Maude gave Doc a smile, “I’ll do my best. Poor thing, but she may surprise us. Think she’s stronger than we realize.”

Maude waited until the Doctor was out of sight, then taking a deep breath, headed back inside. She found Clover sitting next to Hetty’s cot, telling her about their new milk cow and the cream and butter they sold in town.

Maude started to say something, but Hetty gave a slight shake of her head, then turned her attention back to Clover.

Happy reading, and enjoy your own form of creativity for you are sharing your history with the world.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

Monday, October 18, 2021



Let’s Talk about Time

By Annee Jones

          In conducting the research for my upcoming book, A Child’s Faith, Book #16 in the Keepers of the Light series, I became curious about the history of timekeeping, as the father of my main character is a clockmaker.  I found this subject also quite “timely” for a Christmas story, especially since the archetype of Father Time has played so strongly in classic literature set during this time of year (consider Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, for example).    

          In early civilizations, farmers sectioned time into quadrants for planting, growing and harvesting.  However, the actual day or hour was not important.  As communities grew and life became more complex, the need for order increased.  Egyptians realized the parts of day could be marked via the positioning of obelisks and the shadows they cast.  Other early methods of keeping time included the hourglass, water-powered devices, and candles that burned at a fixed rate.

          Early modern clockmakers were master craftsmen who designed and built clocks by hand.  Clockmaking was considered the most technically advanced trade throughout the 15th to 17th centuries.  Thus, the best clockmakers also often built scientific instruments, since they were the only ones trained in the fabrication and assembly of precision mechanical apparatus. 

          Clocks were first brought to the American colonies in the early 1600s. Owning and displaying a clock or timepiece was considered a status symbol, an indication of wealth and relative importance in society.

          The standardization of working hours and train schedules that were hallmarks of the Industrial Revolution brought about the need for ever more precise timekeeping.  By the 19th century, wooden casings and individual clock parts were beginning to be mass-produced in small factories. The skilled work of assembling and synchronizing the parts, however, still had to be done by hand by master clockmakers.  

          By the 20th century, interchangeable parts and standardized designs allowed the entire clock to be assembled in factories, and clockmakers have since only specialized in repair.

          Because early clockmakers had to fashion all the intricate parts and wheelwork of clocks by hand, they developed specialized tools to help them.  Some of these include the following:  

Balance Truing Caliper: This device was used in fashioning the wheels and gearwork of the clock, to make sure the wheel, particularly the balance wheel was balanced and circular. The pivots of the wheel were mounted in the caliper. An index arm was moved next to the edge and the wheel was spun to see if the edge was true.

Die/Screw Plate: The die plate was used to cut threads on small screws. It had a number of threaded die holes of different sizes for making different threads. A piece of wire was inserted in a hole and turned to cut a thread on the end. Then a head would be formed on the other end of the wire to make a screw.

File: Hardened steel files were used to shape the metal before it was used to make and fit wheels or plates. There were many variations of files.

Rivet Extracting Pliers: Made of brass or steel, rivet extracting pliers were used to remove rivets from assorted clock parts.

Jeweler’s Piercing Saw: The blade of the saw was released by undoing the thumbscrew adjacent to the handle. To start an interior cut, a hole was drilled and the blade was inserted and reattached to the saw. This device was popular among clockmakers to repair the ends of clock hands.

Staking tool: An iron vertical plunger was used with an array of stakes for placing rollers and balanced wheels on staffs.

Turns: The "turns" was a small bow-operated lathe used for furbishing parts and for working gear blanks to size. During use, the device was clamped in a vise and the worker held a cutting or polishing tool on a tee-shaped tool rest with one hand, and shifted the bow back and forth to spin the part.

Cross Peen Riveting Hammer: The flat end of the tool was for general use, whereas the radiused peen end was used for flattening rivet heads. This tool was used for forging, riveting, striking steel, etc.

    Watch for more books from me next year featuring clockmakers and the theme of time! 

About Me:

Annee Jones is an inspirational romance novelist who enjoys sharing her heart and imagination with others.  She is passionate about writing stories that offer hope and encouragement and likes to think of her books as “romance filled with faith and a sprinkle of fairy dust!”

Professionally, Annee works as a disability counselor where she helps her clients navigate through complex medical and legal systems while rediscovering their wholeness in Spirit.

Annee also enjoys professional freelance writing for Publishers Weekly in the genres of faith-based fiction and Christian living.  

Connect with Annee here:

A Child’s Faith









Thursday, October 14, 2021

Spice Cake and a Giveaway


Since Santa brought me an Easy-Bake oven when I was six, I've had a love of baking treats for family and friends. 

Over the years, I've collected many cookbooks and perused many recipes. 

Recently, my husband's aunt sent me a hand-written cookbook his grandmother had made goodness only knows how many years ago. The covers are both missing, but it made my heart so full to see Grandma Nell's recipes written in her hand. (And it made me miss her, too). She was always so good about sharing her recipes with me, and her cookbooks! 

My mom was another one who greatly influenced my joy of baking. And I learned so much about cooking from watching her churn out one delicious meal after another. 

In honor of the women who shared their love, and love of baking, with me, I thought I'd share an old-fashioned spice cake recipe with you today. 



1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cold milk
4 cups powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 x 8-inch pan.
Whisk together flour, spices, salt, baking powder, and soda. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugars together until creamy. Gradually beat in oil. Add eggs, one at a time, beating  after each addition.
Stir buttermilk and vanilla together then add to batter, alternating with flour mixture. Mix until just combined. 
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.
Once cake is just barely warm, make frosting. Beat butter and cream cheese together until no lumps remain. Mix in vanilla, milk, and powdered sugar on low speed. Once combined, increase speed to medium and beat until fluffy.
Spread frosting cake. Serve.
Makes approximately 16 servings.

Also, I'm giving away an autographed copy of my A Cowboy Christmas cookbook. Just click on the button below to enter for a chance to win! 

If you'd like to purchase a copy of the cookbook, all book sales (this includes ANY of my books in ANY format) now through Christmas Eve help the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. 

I donate ten percent of my profits to them in support of a fabulous organization. You can learn more about my Read A Book, Help a Cowboy campaign here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Staying Dry At Sea by Zina Abbott


Oilskin Jacket
Once I started writing my book, Lighthouse Escape, I quickly realized I was no longer dealing with gold, silver, dirt, grass, horses, cows, buffalo, and cowboy gear. I was dealing with seamen. Whether the men worked on a river steamboat or one that plied the ocean, they were around water ― a lot. Not only was there water beneath them and river or ocean spray that blew up on them as they sailed and worked, there was often plenty of rain. Especially in the cooler climes, what did mariners in the nineteenth century wear to stay both warm and, hopefully, dry?

My first mental vision involved a yellow slicker with what is known as a Sou’wester hat. A little research revealed that the classic yellow oiled cloth neck to ankle coat and its accompanying hat with the back brim wider than the front was not developed until the end of the century. My book was set in 1881.

For starters, seamen in Ireland, Scotland, and other northern European countries have relied on wool clothing to keep them warm. An additional benefit was that the natural lanolin in the wool acted as a water repellent. Many fishermen and other seamen from colder climes wore heavy, tightly-knit pullover sweaters for that very reason.

Waterproofed cloth garments were in use from the late 1700s. Various methods of waterproofing were used over the years. Seamen also relied on cotton clothing coated with melted wax. Early innovations for foul weather gear was to wear oil-treated cloth jackets which used resin or fat to repel the water and keep their woollen clothing dry underneath.


Crab fisherman wearing Sou'wester hat

Some early Sou'Wester hats and rain capes were handmade of sailcloth waterproofed with a thin layer of tar. Traditional black or “tarred” Sou’Wester hats were developed in the 1800s. The tar was eventually replaced with linseed oil and lampblack.


Fisherman with Sou'Wester Hat- Vincent Van Gogh

Other methods involved canvas duck. Canvas duck, as opposed to regular canvas has threads that are more tightly woven. The term “duck” comes from the Dutch word for cloth, doek. This canvas was then coated with multiple applications of linseed oil and paint. These garments, although waterproof, were heavy and did not “breathe.” As dying processes became more available, many foul weather garments were made from yellow, orange, or red fabrics which stood out more should a man fall overboard.

Both of these methods of waterproofing. Although quite durable, did not possess the breathable qualities of the process developed by New Zealander, Edward Le Roy, in 1898. He used a mixture of linseed oil and wax to coat the fabric several times. Garments created using this process were called oilskins.

However, I know from reading numerous historical sources that oilcloths were made as early as the eighteenth century. Historically, pre-19th century, oilcloth was one of very few flexible, waterproof materials that were widely available. For some families, it was a home industry. Also known as enameled cloth or American cloth, its base was a close-woven cotton duck or linen fabric which was coated with boiled linseed oil to make it waterproof. The linseed oil was boiled with lead and manganese salts, known as metal salts. (Personally, now we better understand the toxic nature of lead, I’m grateful for my plastic tablecloths.) Sienna and umber pigments were used to create a cure more resistant to humidity.

With this understanding, in my story I referred to a oiled tablecloth my hero’s mother made into rain hats for her husband and sons who worked on the water. Here is an excerpt from Lighthouse Escape:

           John next found his yellow oilcloth cap with its down-sloping brim attached around the crown. He shook it to snap it into shape.

              “Bright yellow, huh?”

              John paused and his gaze met Jacko’s. “Before her death almost two years ago, yellow oilcloth hats from an old tablecloth were the last items my mother made with her Singer sewing machine. All four men in my family have one. Her belief was, people usually get injured or fall overboard in bad weather when fog and rain washes out the surrounding color. She decided that bright-colored hats would make us easier to spot.” Still holding the brim of the yellow hat in one hand, he pulled his watch cap snugly over his ears.

              Jacko cocked his head and lifted a shoulder. “Makes sense.”

              “Her other oilcloth tablecloth was yellow with red roses printed on it. We were grateful she did not sacrifice that one for her project.” John rolled his eyes and shook his head. “So, until the captain finds the lighthouse, we just follow the shoreline?”

              “Not that easy. Due to it being high tide, there’s a cluster of reefs—mostly submerged rocks surrounding that spit of land that holds the lighthouse. Some of them barely show above the surface when the tide’s out and the water’s calm. When the waves get this high, they can do a disappearing act, only to show up when we’re on top of them. A few have bell buoys anchored to them, but sometimes it’s hard to hear them in a storm like this. Besides, it’s what you’ll find several feet below those rocks that we worry about most.”

              “Sounds like a good place to avoid.” John donned his waterproof hat over his knit cap and tied the straps under his chin.

              “Didn’t figure you’d be this prepared.”

              “Rains on the river, too.” John pulled on his leather gloves. 

To find the book description and link for Lighthouse Escape, please CLICK HERE.

You might also wish to check out my other recently-published books on my Amazon account.




Wikipedia regarding oilskin, canvas, oilcloth, Sou’wester, and waxed cotton


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Yellow Fever Pandemics - The Plague of the 19th Century by Kimberly Grist

 Yellow Fever Pandemics- The Plague of Memphis in the 19th Century

Diseases and epidemics of the 19th Century included smallpox, typhus, scarlet fever, cholera, and yellow fever. Yellow fever accounted for the largest number of 19th-century epidemic outbreaks. Yellow fever earned many nicknames, including Yellow Jack, the Yellow Plume of Death, Yellow Terror, and Bronze John, based on its symptoms. 

Nashville Tennessean Magazine, Jan. 22, 1956, Newspapers on Microfilm Collection.

During the 1800s, the city of Memphis was a swampy area and held the reputation as one of the filthiest and most foul-smelling cities on earth. Open sewers, thousands of privies that emptied into the Mississippi River, decaying wooden walkways, and no organized service to dispose of garbage for thousands of residents combined, creating a terrible aroma and the perfect breeding ground for Yellow Fever. 

In 1828, 1855, 1867, and 1873, Yellow Fever was brought north from New Orleans to Memphis, by steamers. In July of 1878, it hit again, after a man who escaped a quarantined steamboat visited a restaurant on the shore of the Mississippi. On August 13th, restaurant owner, Kate Bionda became the first Memphis resident to die of yellow fever and the infection spread rapidly. 
Most of the residents who were able to leave left within a week and approximately twenty-five thousand people fled to other cities and spreading the diseases as far away as Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky.

In the heat of the summer, those who were left to take care of the sick believed that the disease was spread by bad air. Even though the temperatures were close to one hundred, residents boarded the windows and kept fires burning. When people died, their clothing and beds were dragged into the streets and burned. An average of two hundred people died every day through September and almost half of the city's doctors perished. 

Dr. John Erskin was one of 110 doctors who tended the sick and dying in 1878 and was one of the thirty-three physicians who died from the disease. 

The epidemic ended with the first frost in October leaving twenty-thousand people in the Southeast dead. In the aftermath, open sewers and privies were cleaned up, which destroyed the breeding grounds for mosquitos thus preventing further epidemics. 

After researching the pandemic of 1878, I was surprised that I had very little recollection from my history lessons about this 19th Century pandemic. My imagination turned to the plight of orphans during this time period, and I was inspired to begin writing about the lives of women and specifically children affected, and left to raised by family members and in orphanages.  

Best Friends Bound by Tragedy

Selah Anderson and Alice Connelly were orphaned as a result of the Yellow Fever Epidemic in 1878 and raised in an orphanage outside Memphis. As adults the prospects for employment of young women are bleak, and between the yellow plague epidemic and gold fever, young men are scarce, even in the surrounding counties. With no other options available, they agree to participate in a new matrimonial venture begun by the matron of the orphanage and local pastors.

Shoo-Fly Pie by Selah - Can this mail-order bride handle the diversity that comes with her husband's dangerous vocation? Together will they blend their 
opposing desires to create a recipe for love?

Apple PanDowdy by Alice - Can an itinerant mail-order bride find her recipe for her happily ever after? 

About Kimberly Grist:

Kim has enjoyed writing since she was a young girl. However, she began writing her first novel in 2017, "
Despite my best efforts, sometimes life just stinks. Bad things happen. I need and want an outlet, an opportunity to relax and escape to a place where obstacles are met and overcome." 
Fans of historical romance set in the late 19th -century will enjoy stories combining, History, Humor, and Romance, emphasizing Faith, Friends, and Good, Clean Fun. 

Connect with Kimberly:

Amazon Author Page:

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Home Town History!


We don’t often think of writing about where we live. We love to write about history and the old west, but for this month’s blog, it occurred to me that I should write about my hometown of Estacada, Oregon. Not that I haven’t written a little about the area before. I’ve shared Philip Foster’s farm with you as it’s a wonderful historical site. But the old Estacada Park, located south of what was once the Estacada Hotel, was built to attract throngs of streetcar-riding city dwellers to what was considered an amusement resort in the mountain foothills.


The Estacada and Cazadero train would leave from the east approach of the Morrison Bridge in Portland every two hours daily. The distance was 36 miles, and the entire ride gave folks an interesting and excellent idea of the Willamette Valley in the vicinity of Portland. People were whirled through a fine suburb and farm country with grain fields, orchards, stock pastures, berry farms, chicken ranches and stretches of forests. The paper described the line running to “new country” where the land is being cleared for new homes.

Estacada is a spanish word and it means staked out or marked with stakes. It was first suggested by George Kelly as a name for the town site at a meeting of the Oregon Water Power Townsite Company directors on December 27, 1903. Kelly had selected the name at random from a U.S. Map which showed Llano Estacado, in Texas. If Kelly’s suggestion had not been drawn from the hat, the town could have been named Rochester, Lowell or Lynn. The name Estacada is also used in Arizona. Having done a report on the history of Estacada back in high school, we found that some folks said the town was named for Esther Cada, the daughter of one of the more prominent citizens back in the day. Some of the older folks in town still say that’s how it got its name!

The Oregon Water Power Railway Co. began streetcar service from Sellwood to Estacada in 1905. In 1907, the name  changed to the Portland Railway Light and Power Co. Passenger service and continued until 1932.

Other than the park and hotel that had its own restaurant, there was also a Confectionary and the Ice Cream Store along with a grocery, the First State Bank and various other businesses. Some of the buildings are still there today including many original houses and churches. When doing my history report, one of the things that stood out was the number of saloons in the tiny hamlet. Fourteen! And that was back in the early 1900s. Today the population of Estacada is about 3600. That was a lot of watering holes for one tiny little town. But as it was considered a tourist spot, I can see the amount.

 Maybe one day I’ll use Estacada as a setting for a book. Quite a few movies and television shows have been shot around here including Kevin Costner’s The Postman, The Librarians, (I remember when Jonathan Frakes of Star Trek the Next Generation was in town directing and gave a special talk at the library. That was in 2015 as I recall), Without a Paddle, Extraordinary Measures, Behind the Mask, and currently, an Amazon production.  There are parking lots full of trailers, movie equipment and catering trucks. Just another day in town ...

Until next time,