Thursday, September 28, 2023

Norwegian Troll-Fighting Jewelry - by Jo-Ann Roberts

Earlier this year, when I was asked to be part of a MAPs with an already established following, I gave an enthusiastic "Yes!" Since the premise of the series revolves around a recipe that wins the heart of the groom it was an added bonus as I love to cook/bake...especially bake! While I have a wide range of tried-and-true recipes, I was excited to experiment with something new. 

As the granddaughter of immigrants on both sides of my family tree, I find myself drawn to the immigrant experience, and often include their stories in my books either as a main or secondary character. So, when I decided on Lefse, a Norwegian flatbread as my recipe, I realized I had some serious research ahead of me, as I knew very little about the Norwegian culture, foods, or people.

It was Mother's Day weekend when I began plotting my book, and one of my favorite movies, I Remember Mama, the story of a Norwegian immigrant family in 1910 San Francisco, was featured on TCM. There was a scene when the oldest daughter wanted a modern hairdressing set instead of her grandmother's sølje (sol ya), an antique brooch. This was just the type of tidbit I enjoy adding to my books.

The Legend of the Sølje

sølje is a style of silver jewelry that is distinctive to the people of Norway. And in Nordic folk lore, magic resides in every piece. 

As the story goes, a family living in the land of 10,000 lakes gave birth to a beautiful little girl. But near their home on Eagle Mountain, an evil troll dwelled. One night when all were asleep, the evil troll snuck into the house and inched his way toward the baby. 

But as the troll unwrapped the blanket, a small silver dangle brooch peaked through. Pinned onto her pillow was a shiny sølje. So, instead of taking the baby, the troll took the pin.

The Scandinavian culture always has had a fear of the "hidden folk" or huldra. These troll-like people who lived in the mountains came out and basically exchanged their babies for your babies to strengthen their bloodlines.

So, to protect against that, they parents would pin a small brooch onto the baby's pillow so that if the huldra came in the middle of the night, it would take the pin instead of the baby...sort of like fairies but not necessarily the nicest kind!

Many of the sølje have little disks or spoons dangling down from the center of the pin. Some people believe that if you run into the devil, he's supposed to see his reflection and be so mortified, he'll leave you alone and run away. So, it's sort of a protection against the evil eye, too.

Types of Sølje   

Pins and jewelry vary widely across Norway. A solje completes a traditional folk outfit, or bunard as Norwegians call it. 


Back in the day before we all had buttons on our clothing, the only thing that would hold our clothing together would be silver pins.

Over the centuries, this very simple pin idea developed into something incredibly ornate and beautiful. There would be pins, cuff links, lots of necklaces, and the most ornate sølje would be the bridal crown.


Silver, in many cultures, is very special. It is, basically, a protective element. It was also used to cure sickness, and silver marks the different points in a person's maturity.

Traditionally, individuals received a sølje at three different benchmarks in their life: at birth, upon reaching their 16th birthday, and marriage. But because these are vulnerable benchmarks, the silver is there to protect the person.

Heirloom Pieces

Besides warding off evil spirits, social status has something to do with the sølje, too. Many people throughout history have worn silver as a show of wealth. And depending upon the size of the sølje or the elements in the pins, it would show a hidden vocabulary; married vs. single, where they were from, or what family they belonged to.

Sølje jewelry is still made today in Norway. Each heart, each flower is painstakingly hand-turned silver wire. Special silver drops are placed on the pieces as well. The texture adds to the shine of the pin. The mix of sterling silver and 18kt "tears" on these pieces are truly heirlooms.

It has long been common for wearers of sølje jewelry to pass down the items from one generation to the next. Many ladies of Norwegian descent have collections of sølje heirlooms. Small sølje are sometimes pinned to babies' pillows for protection, even by modern mothers and grandmothers. Even today, brides in Norway wear them on their wedding day to ward off the "Mountain King", just as their ancestors did long ago.

Ironically, I was going through my jewelry box several weeks ago for something silver to wear with an outfit. There, hanging on a hook was a silver chain with a sølje. My daughter had given it to me years ago before I knew what it was. With pride, I wear this necklace for all immigrant women who sacrificed to make a new life for themselves and their families in America.

Releases November 21st

Here's a sneak peek from "Lefse by Linnea" 

Uncomfortable that her heart was overtaking her mind, she tried to throttle the dizzying current racing through her. Although she never mentioned it to Erik, she knew there was something unique about Finn McBride. “You are a kind man.”

“I think the cold and snow have affected my hearing…are you sweet-talking me, darlin’?”

With her actions denying her words, Linnea shook her head, unprepared for his quick strides as he stopped in front of her.

“Don’t deny it, Linney. I’m flattered.” His large, callused hands took her face and held it gently before he pushed away icy, golden-brown tendrils from her cheeks. A moment later, he trailed his forefinger along the curve of her jaw to her chin then down her neck.

The touch of his hands sent a warming shiver through her as Linnea felt his uneven breathing on her cheek. All of her loneliness and uncertainty melded together and drifted away, replaced by a longing for friendship, maybe even companionship hemmed by faith and love.

“What’s this?” He tapped the center of the sølje, causing the teardrops and circular discs to chime softly.

Unnerved by Finn’s familiarity, she swallowed around the knot in her throat. “It’s called a sølje…a Norwegian keepsake handed down through the generations to the oldest daughter. Legend says it’s to keep the bride safe so the mountain king doesn’t kidnap her on the way to the wedding. Others say wearing it helps to deflect evil…or attract a suitor.”

“A suitor, huh?” There was a flash in Finn’s eyes, like light caught in water before his lashes lowered and he stepped closer. Suddenly, she reined in her drifting thoughts.

“Thank you for bringing me home, Deputy McBride,” she acknowledged but didn’t step away, offering a tentative smile instead of the kiss she was sure he’d anticipated. “And for rescuing me…a second time. But I need to dress in some dry clothes, and I assume you have to get back to your duties.” Even to her own ears, her words sounded dismissive. But she couldn’t help it. The man’s nearness made her head spin.

Finn sighed. Yet, his mouth quirked with humor. “I guess it’s for the best.” He reached for her hand. “Walk me to the door, Linney?”

Her fingers tingled when he touched hers, walking—not ahead or behind—but beside her. It was a small thing, but it was something a friend might do, and it warmed her heart. “It looks like the storm has passed,” she announced, pulling open the door. Already, the sky was clearing. And through the clouds, the sun was dropping shafts of light.

“For the moment, darlin’ Linney.”

By the devilish waggle of his eyebrows, she was certain he wasn’t talking about the weather. Managing only a smile, she didn’t answer. She had never come this close to being disloyal to Erik with any man. And especially not with one who had been her husband’s good friend.

Perhaps I’ll keep my distance but maintain a friendship with him, she decided but deep in her heart she knew keeping that pledge might be easier said than done with a man like Finn McBride.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Embrace the Spontaneous

Wikipedia Commons

One of the most memorable attractions we saw on our 2014 trip to Ireland was the result of a spontaneous decision. A conversation in passing at dinner one night pointed us in the direction of the Cliffs of Moher. (Although taking the word of a stranger who you’ve only conversed with for five minutes is an interesting basis for a day’s unplanned outing.) Located on a western coast of County Clare, these cliffs erupt from the Atlantic Ocean to a height of 702 feet and are within sight (on a clear day) of the Aran Islands. The day we visited was cold and foggy. Seabirds love the uneven surfaces of the rocks to roost, and visitors can spot puffins, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars (all species I’d never seen before). An interpretive center contains displays that describe the geologic makeup of the site, as well as show a video that displays an exhilarating bird’s eye view of the cliffs from ocean wave to grassy top. After viewing everything in the center (in hopes the fog would lift), we trekked outside and walked a portion of the path that runs along the top of the cliffs.


Puffins--Clare Birdwatching

An interesting fact we learned was the site was visited so often in the early 1800s that Cornelius O’Brien built a tower in 1835 for visitors to view the cliff’s natural beauty. The site has been featured in a wide variety of movies: Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince, Ryan’s Daughter, The Princess Bride, Mackintosh Man, Into the West, Hear My Song, Father Ted. Ireland’s biggest wave for surfing called “Aileens” happens at the base of O’Brien’s Tower and is featured in Sea Fever and Wave Riders. In addition to tourist visits, the cliffs are often the site for engagements, weddings, and renewal of vows ceremonies.

My husband loved the environmental practices inherent in the interpretive center which opened in 2007. The grass-roofed center is built into the hillside, uses geo-thermal energy, wastewater treatment, and sensor lighting. Artisan gift shops are also built into the hillside with only the front façade showing, which minimizes the impact so visitors can enjoy the natural beauty.

As a writer, what I took away from the visit was not to pass up experiences that might fall into your lap.

BIO: As a child, Linda was often found lying on her bed reading about characters having exciting adventures in places far away. In later years, she started writing romances and achieved her first publication--a confession story. Now Linda writes heartwarming contemporary and historical romance, often with humor and always with determined heroines and strong heroes.

Find Linda’s stories on her Amazon Author page.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Evergreen Cemetery's 'Doctor's Hill'

Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

Every city cemetery seems to have that place that holds in its space the stories of the early history as told through those who are buried there. Usually, these areas are in the older sections, like the one in Evergreen.

For the purpose of this post, I will focus on three doctors who are buried there. While there is a woman doctor on the hill, the doctors discussed here are all men and were practicing in the region prior to 1900. Additionally, these three were also a president of the Colorado Medical Society.

We begin with the gravesite at the top of the hill. The headstone sits in a slight depression at the edge of a precipice where the hill has the beginning of a gully. Whether true or not, Dr. Boswell P. Anderson has a life I feel was one of living on the edge.

Dr. Boswell P. Anderson
Image from Find a Grave

Anderson was born in 1847 in Virginia. He served in the Confederate Army as a member of Mosby’s Raiders. He carried a bullet in his lung as a result of his military service. A story in the book by the

Colorado Medical Society is his meeting with General Sherman when in Colorado. It seems he’d been captured as a spy when he had met with a Union soldier to trade food/tobacco. He told Sherman that he was trading for coffee for his mother. The story goes, that he and Sherman celebrated the meeting all those years later in the fashion of the day, lots of alcohol.

Dr. William M. Strickler
Image from Find A Grave

Moving down the hill, almost straight west from Anderson is the resting place of William B. Strickler and his wife. Virginia. Dr. Strickler was also born in Virginia in 1838. Stickler also served in the Confederate Army but unlike Anderson, he was an assistant surgeon in his unit. In addition to his medical work, Strickler was also involved in politics and sheep and cattle growing. Dr. Strickler was also known as someone who was reserved but an amazing surgeon.

Dr. Samuel E. Solly
Image from Find A Grave

Samuel Edwin Solly is down a slight incline and slightly to the north of Strickler. Dr. Solly was born in 1845 in London England. He was the first British-born doctor to head the Colorado Medical Society. He arrived in the Pikes Peak Region with his wife, who like Solly suffered from tuberculous. The properties that drew so many invalids to the region helped Solly recover but not his wife. Dr. Solly focused his message on the atmosphere of the area and its healing properties.

There is a wealth of stories and information about these doctors and the others who have ‘Doctor’s Hill’ as their final resting place.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Cowboy Sayings - Every Dog Has His Day


Photo by Richard Brutyo

“Boy everything seems to be going right for you ever since you sang in church. You’re surely popular with the ladies.” One cowboy says to another.

The other cowboy answers with a shrug, “Well, every dog has his day.”

This saying goes back for thousands of years apparently, but wasn’t printed in English until Queen Elizabeth wrote it in a letter back in the 1500’s. Then it was printed again in a sixteenth century book of Proverbs, and even used in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. So athough it was used for a very long time, it was also popular among cowboys in the 1800’s and is occasionally used today.

It is often used to express someone getting their 15 minutes of fame or popularity. That everyone, even a dog can get a moment when it’s popular and paid attention to. It’s also sometimes used to express that even dogs are entitled to having a good day. So when you’re having an especially good day, are being complimented on your popularity, you might use this expression, too

Have you ever heard this saying before? Used it yourself? Could you see yourself using it now? Let me know in a comment!

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Monday, September 18, 2023

The Mystery of Sonora's P. Kelly's Stable Location by Zina Abbott








          One of the drawbacks for using a real locality and attempting to pull in some historical characters and incidences is that the available information can get murky. That quite often sends me down the research rabbit hole. In Sonora, those rabbit holes often lead to dead ends, such as the one I traveled in an attempt to find the location of the P. Kelly Feed and Stable business.

          The following is taken from my Author’s Notes at the end of A Watchman for Willow:

          For my book, I wished to use the incident of the shooting that took place at the P. Kelly Stable on April 26, 1886. It was in neighboring California newspapers—most notably the Stockton Mail, the Merced Sun-Star, the Mariposa Gazette, and the Daily Alta California newspapers that I found sufficient details to get a general idea of what took place between Peter Kelly and Michael Keefe and the outcome of the incident. Finding unindexed, microfilmed issues of the Union Democrat, which might have offered more details that came out in the trial, would have required a day or two (or more) of perusing the microfilms at the California State Library. 

          Since this incident was not the primary plot in my novel, but simply a climatic action incident I set up for my hero’s night watchman work, I chose not to go into more detail than that available in the above-mentioned newspaper sources, or refer directly to this family. For one thing, Michael Keefe coming to visit Peter Kelly took place in the morning. Since my character, Jesse Randolph, worked as a night watchman, the timing did not work. The other reason is because this might still be a sensitive issue for the descendants of both the Kelly and Keefe families, some of whom might still live in Tuolumne County. It was an unnecessary and unfortunate incident that I imagine resulted in a great deal of grief and hardship for two families. Instead, I chose to write a fictional scene inspired by the incident.

          Here is some of the information I found:

          P. Kelly Feed Stable was a livery run by Patrick Kelly. It operated a stagecoach between Sonora and Strawberry to the east, as well as hauling lumber for various logging companies. 

           According to the 1870 U.S. Census for Columbia, which is five miles to the north of Sonora, three Kelly brothers lived there in 1870. All three were born in Ireland. One head of household shows the older brother, Michael Kelly, age 35, working as a stable keeper. He did not sell the Columbia livery business to George M. Trask until 1888. Enumerated with him in 1870 was his wife, Bridget, and three children.

          On the same census, the youngest brother of three in Columbia, Patrick Kelly, age 21, who appeared to live in the same dwelling as Michael, worked as a stage driver.

          Peter Kelly, who lived next to Michael and Patrick, listed his occupation as miner. He was enumerated with his wife, Ann, and one young daughter. In 1873, he advertised that he bought the Copperopolis Stage Line.

           By the time of the 1880 U.S. Census, Patrick lived in Sonora. His occupation was Livery business. The above beautifully staged photograph shows the livery and several citizens of Sonora. Patrick Kelly is the man in front wearing the waist coat and the hat set at a jaunty angle.

          In 1880, Peter Kelly, who bought out the Copperopolis Stage Line, still lived in Copperopolis. His occupation was listed as Stable Keeper. A newspaper article in 1885 indicated that, upon injury of the regular Copperopolis stagecoach driver, Peter Kelly assumed the ribbons and drove the stagecoach. I do not know if, between 1880 and April 1886, he sold his Copperopolis stable business and moved to Sonora, or if he was in Sonora the day after Easter because he and his family joined his younger brother to celebrate the holiday.

           I am not sure where the P. Kelly Stables and Feed business was located in Sonora other than documentation I found states it was on South Washington Street. None of the historic maps show its location. However, According to Michael Gahagan, author of Images of America – Sonora, this livery was the oldest livery stable in Tuolumne County.

          This does not coordinate well with my findings that all the Kellys lived in Columbia during the 1870 U.S. Census, and the livery purchased by Michael Kelly took place in February 1870. Since Patrick Kelly was listed as a stage driver on that census, I do not believe he opened his stable business in Sonora prior to 1870. Also, an 1866 photograph of Sonora includes the City Livery.

          A careful study of the photograph of P. Kelly Stable shows a rock side wall and brick with iron doors in front. Unlike other stables in the city, it appears surrounded by greenery rather than being abutted by buildings. It looks like it was most likely by either an open area as opposed to being abutted by buildings, which is why I initially thought it might be the livery found along Sonora Creek.


          By studying photographs online and in the book, Images of America Sonora, I first thought the City Livery, which is visible in an 1866 photograph, was near a bend to the left in the road. There are three places like that on Washington Street. One is close to where the road continuing to Columbia bends to the east, and the other two—depending on whether the viewer is facing north or south—is between Linoberg Street and Gold Street. I finally found a source that identified it as the livery along Sonora Creek. 

         It later became Pickle’s Stables. After the fire of 1970, which destroyed several buildings around Sonora Creek, the city decided to build Coffill Park rather than replace the destroyed buildings. Discovered in the ruins following the fire were the rock and brick walls of an old livery. Although this “old livery” was not identified in that article, I suspect this would have been the old City Livery/Pickle’s Stables.

The Pioneer Stable operated by famed (locally, at least) stage driver, John H. Shine, was located on South Washington Street near where the old Stockton Road intersects. This would have placed it almost across the street from the City Livery as well as being fairly close to the original plaza area and the spring that provided potable water in Sonora’s early days. 

View from second floor of Opera Hall

Its location was verified in one of two photographs I found of Shine’s Pioneer Stable which showed it located across the street and slightly to the north of the Sonora Opera Hall. 

Map courtesy of Sonora Remembered, A Nostalgic Tribute to a Gold Rush Town by Patricia Perry, City Historian, Editor (corrected to show location of P. Kelly Feed Stable)

          I still do not know where the P. Kelly Livery is located. For a livery that, if the 1900 U.S. Census is to be believed was still in business, and the image of which is impressive enough that it graced a book cover about Sonora, California, if the Sonora historians know the location of they are keeping this information close to the vest. Since I used the story of the shooting of Peter Kelly by Michael Keefe as the inspiration for one scene in my story, for my purposes, I decided to place my fictional livery near Sonora Creek.

Update as of September 25, 2023. I found the location of the P. Kelly Livery and Feed on a July 1895 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map. In some respects, it was in my research files all along. However, I needed to do some photo-editing to find it.

It is located across from and south of where Silver Street intersects with South Washington Street. Since the time of the 1895 Sanborn map, Silver Street has been renamed to Williams Street. The current address is possibly 435 S. Washington Street.



Today was the release day for A Watchman for Willow. It is currently available for purchase or at no additional cost with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. To find the book description and purchase link,