Thursday, July 28, 2022

Let's Go Picnicking - A Look at Picnics in Victorian America by Jo-Ann Roberts

"I don't know why, but the meals we have on picnics taste so much 
better than the ones we have indoors."  -- Enid Blyton

The season of picnics is upon us in full force! From spring to late autumn, Americans take to the outdoors, enjoying a variety of foods, fruits, and vegetables while flocking to the shore, a mountain lake, or a neighbor's pool. We celebrate the unofficial start of summer by picnicking on Memorial Day, Father's Day, graduations, Fourth of July, vacations, and Labor Day. Autumn finds us tailgating at football games, soccer matches, harvest festivals, and impromptu evening gatherings around a firepit. 

There's something about eating outdoors that brings out the child in all of us!

In the 19th-- and early 20th century the word picnic was define as "an assembly of young people of both genders, at a tavern where everyone pays his club."

In Victorian America, and especially on the prairie and Western territories, these community picnics were major social events, involving informal sport, games, and people dressed in their Sunday finery. Schools, churches societies temperance groups, and businesses all held annual picnics. The food for the picnic was usually prepared at home and taken to the community grove down by the river, to a neighbor's farm, or a town park.  

There were many families, in both city and country, who could not leave their homes, farms, or ranches for an extended period of time, but could afford to lose a day's work now and then for an excursion.

Picnic Proprieties

As you might expect, picnic etiquette was expected at these gatherings. The following came from the San Francisco Chronicle of San Francisco, California in 1869...

"...We do not allow children just learning to walk to wander unguarded at the edge of precipices, and we ought not to allow young people just acquiring a knowledge of the world to be exposed to perils of the nature which they are ignorant.

...Picnics where the party is largely made up of young girls, should be properly "matronized" and governed by a code of proprieties calculated to prevent even the appearance of evil. There should be no straying in couples from the main body of the party especially when champagne or other vinous beverages have been consumed.

...There is a certain class of fast, young men who make a practice of attending all picnics that are not of a strictly private character for sinister purposes."

The Picnic Basket

The success or failure of a picnic depended mainly upon an ample supply of the right kinds of food and drink. When several families participated in picnic, each family offered to bring a dish, practicing the old adage "many hands make light work".

A sturdy square or rectangular basket, or a wood crate was preferable. A length of toweling or a fancy napkin was nestled on the bottom and up the sides of the basket or crate. Food was then wrapped in paraffin paper and placed inside.

In addition to good manners, each family brought their own plates (paper plates were not invented until 1903!), and flatware along with a sharp knife and a 

drinking cup for each person. A colorful tablecloth often brought a bit of elegance to the meal and showcased the family's wealth. 

Picnic Foods

Cold fried or roasted chicken, ham biscuits, boiled eggs, and pickled vegetables were all welcomed foods at a prairie picnic. Some picnics had "made dishes" which were as good when cold as when warm. Croquettes, fish balls, Saratoga Potatoes (potato chips!), baked beans, and meat pies were favorites. Seasonal vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, and fruits like strawberries, blueberries, huckleberries (a Montana favorite) containing a large proportion of water were very much appreciated on a hot, dry afternoon.

Homemade desserts were the highlight of every picnic. Doughnuts dusted with cinnamon and sugar, hand pies, turnovers, cookies and cakes were all well-adapted
to outdoor eating.

As important as food was for a successful picnic, the availability and preparation of something to drink in the hot weather months on the dry prairie was paramount. Where water was abundant, folks brought lemons and sugar to make lemonade. No matter the temperature, coffee was a necessity.  Someone always thought to bring a pot and coffee and built a campfire to serve the brew.

Today, picnics in America are a celebration of human spirit, culinary diversity, and adventures. They are personal. We choose the foods we serve, the guests we invite, and the venue. Planned or impromptu, they are not so very different from picnics of picnics on the prairie. We still enjoy eating outside on a summer's night or sampling regional foods at a community feast (New England clambakes, Texas barbecues, or New Orleans shrimp boils), or at trendy al-fresco bistros, central city cafes, and food fairs.

Let's Go on a Picnic!

Last September, author Pam Crooks extended sent me an invitation to be part of a MAPs project. Enthusiastically, I said "YES!" On July 15th, "Ainsley" Book 8 in the Love Train series released. Thanks to all who read and reviewed Ainsley and Lucas's romance.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Alaska...Before It Was Alaska

America’s forty-ninth state, Alaska, has always been the western- and northernmost part of the North American land mass. But governance of the vast acres has changed hands multiple times. Indigenous peoples have lived there for thousands of years since the time of the existence of a land bridge between the Asia and North America continents.

A first sighting but a white man probably happened in 1648 when ships commanded by Semyon Dezhnev went off course from the Arctic Circle. With no settlements in evidence, this claim cannot be verified. A second expedition was undertaken by two ships piloted by Captains Bering and Chirikov in 1741. Although the ships were separated, Russian sailors from the Chirikov ship set foot on the land (probably the Alaskan Panhandle) on July 15th that abutted British America (Canada’s British Columbia province). But a formal claim as in the name of Russia ordered by Tsar Peter 1 wasn’t made until the Ukase of 1799. The Ukase granted the land as a colony of the Russian Empire and gave monopoly power for the Russian-American Fur Company to hunt and trap the native wildlife. The capitol was established as Novo-Arkhangelsk, (New Archangel) which is present-day Sitka, and a Russian Orthodox Church was built. Therefore, a number of workers (hunters, trappers, tanners, plus all of the support people) established and maintained a settlement in a wilderness along the land mass’s southern border. (Russian America also included Fort Ross in Northern California and three forts in Hawai’i.)

New Archangel in 1837, painted by Alexandr
Olgin, state archives of Russian Navy

Maintaining a colony so far from Moscow proved difficult. When the fur trade dwindled, people deserted the settlements, and the cost of maintaining a few locations in Russian America was too high. The Unites States bought the land for the amount of $7.2 million on October 18, 1867, and it became known by the following names: Department of Alaska, District of Alaska, Territory of Alaska, and finally the State of Alaska, each having a different form of governance.

My research revealed Captain Bering was Danish and Captain Chirikov was Russian. From these designations, I inferred these two ethnicities had interactions within mainland Russia. So I gave the protagonists of my soon-to-be released story, Aebleskiver by Annika, a background of growing up in Russian America before the US took possession. I imagined those few families transported from Russia to Russian American as workers and rulers would have been fairly close knit. Great backstory for the romance.

Blurb for Aebleskiver by Annika, book 11 in Old Timey Holiday Kitchen, to be released 8/16/22:

Annika Nilsdatter juggles her new manager position at the Riverside Bakery owned by her best friend, Glynna, and being courted by Erich von Griswald, son of the town’s most prominent banker. A friend, the object of her young affections from her growing-up years, arrives in town. Suddenly, she is being flattered by the attentions of two handsome men to the detriment of the business. Guilt plagues her, but, just for a little while, she wants to feel special.

Levka Maksimillian, an undercover Pinkerton agent, is surprised to run into Annika in the town where he’s been assigned a case. At least, he’s in disguise so she didn’t recognize him. But when he’s injured, he has to rely on his good friend’s sister to nurse him back to health. Levka doesn’t want to put Annika in danger, but he has to heal fast. His role in hunting down the head of a theft operation is essential. Will the need for secrecy and their close proximity create a false attraction or a lasting love?

Free in Kindle Unlimited

Amazon preorder link

I've enjoyed these fluffy pancakes before. Have any of you?

Places to find me





Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Superstitions in the Victorian Era


Post by Doris McCraw aka Angela Raines

Photo property of the Author

As I am working to finish the book on women doctors buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado Springs, I've come across some interesting superstitions surrounding death and burial. Although these women probably didn't believe in them, some of their patients might have. 

It struck me, that there might be some that other writers and readers might not know of, so I thought I would share, just in case someone might need the information.

So for your use or just because:

1. A dog howling three times- A death has occurred.

2. If a person buried lived a good life, flowers will grow on the grave. If the person was evil, weeds will grow.

3. If three people are photographed together, the one in the middle will die first.

4. Thunder following a funeral means that the dead person's soul has reached heaven.

5. All windows should be opened at the moment of death so that the soul can leave.

6. If you leave something that belongs to you to the deceased, that means the person will come back for you.

7. When you experience a chill up your spine, someone, somewhere has just walked across your future grave site.

8. Never speak ill of the dead because they will come back to haunt you or you will suffer misfortune.

9. When a loved one dies, pour bourbon around the room in little drops to prevent evil spirits from coming into the house.

10. Taking ashes out of a stove after sundown will bring a death in the family.

I found some quite interesting and can see how people might accept them as fact. 

In the meantime, I will continue with the stories of these pioneering women who were medical school graduates who followed their passion to help ease the pain of others. All in the book were practicing prior to 1900. Watch for "Under the Stone", coming soon.

Mock-up of the possible cover

Doris McCraw

Monday, July 18, 2022

Old Timey Holiday Kitchen for 2021 on sale this week










Last year, the Sweet Americana Book Club, which is affiliated with this blog, sponsored the Old Timey Holiday Kitchen series of sweet American historical romances. This week, the authors are offering their 2021 ebooks on sale. Not only do we wish to celebrate "Christmas in July," but several of the same authors, plus some new authors, will be offering ten new books for 2022.

Here are the ebooks that will be on sale for at least part of this week as Kindle Countdowns. (Please keep in mind, we authors have to time our sales event based on our author account's Kindle Unlimited enrollment periods that renew every three months. Because some enrollment renewals fall within this week, we might have a few books that will be on sale the first part of the week, and others that might start a couple of days late. If you wish to purchase them all, check today, and then come back in two days and check again.

To find the link to the series page, please CLICK HERE.

Here are the links where you may find the book description and purchase options for the 2021 books:


Kris Kringle's Kuchen by Katrina: Old Timey Holiday Kitchen Book 1

by Elissa Strati

He fell in love with her cooking. Could he love her, too?



Shoo-fly Pie By Selah: Old Timey Holiday Kitchen Book 2

By Kimberly Grist

Can his 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?


Charm Cake by Charity: Old Timey Holiday Kitchen Book 3

By Annee Jones

It’s Christmas and Charity DeWitt is celebrating her engagement to recent medical school graduate Dr. Fox Skilling with a Charm Cake…


Lemon Pie by Lucinda: Old Timey Holiday Kitchen Book 4

By Marisa Masterson

Two ladies named Lucinda. … Lucy never uses her real name and is surprised when Rev. Caldwell calls her that at the pie auction.


Pumpkin Pie by Patience: Old Timey Holiday Kitchen Book 5

By Annee Jones

19-year-old Patience Sutton has never been praised for her cooking – in fact, she burned the pumpkin pie at her family’s last Thanksgiving dinner….


Cranberry Cake by Cora: Old Timey Holiday Kitchen Book 6

By P. Creeden

When Cora Sullivan's father moved out west to Kansas City in order to help his bank start a new branch in a different state, she hadn't realized just how much she would miss … her dearly departed mother's cranberry cake.


Ginger Cake by Glynna: Old Time Holiday Kitchen book 7

By Linda Carroll-Bradd

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 …


Apple Pandowdy by Alice: Old Timey Holiday Kitchen Book 8

By Kimberly Grist

Two men in competition to capture the heart of a cautious cook. Is this a recipe for disaster or true love?



Figgy Pudding by Francine: Old Timey Holiday Kitchen Book 9

By Zina Abbott

He wrote her a letter as a wedding gift for a friend. Can she win his heart with a traditional Christmas dessert?



Walnut Cake by Wylene: Old Timey Holiday Kitchen Book 10

By Janice Cole Hopkins

Jackson Young brings the woman he wants to marry home to Kentucky to meet his parents, but Helen doesn’t act like the same woman away from Boston. Suddenly he finds himself courting one woman but thinking about another.


We have another purpose for holding a sales special this week.

On Thursday, July 21, 2022, the authors of round two of the Old Timey Holiday Kitchen will introduce their 2022 books. They will share their book covers, the book descriptions, and perhaps an excerpt, game, puzzle, and offer prizes. Please be sure to join us on the sponsoring Facebook group,

Sweet Americana Book Club

From 1-4pm Pacific time /4-7pm Eastern time

Please CLICK HERE for the link to the invitation to the event.

Please CLICK HERE to the Sweet Americana Book Club group on Facebook where the event will be held.