31 January 2008

Daily Life: Ancient Egypt

By Jean Adams

Throughout the history of the world, no region has been more influenced by the natural attributes of the land than Egypt. The rhythm of the river Nile reflected the rhythm of life in Egypt for thousands of years.

The Nile was their main source for survival and for the great triumph of their civilization. The Nile was not only the source of water but the ancient Egyptians also had religious beliefs that focused on the Nile.

They relied on the gods to control the annual ebb and flow of the river. They built their homes from the soil of the Nile, and in proximity to the river. When describing the life of ancient Egyptians, it is virtually impossible not to consider the river as part of their way of life. Many of the major settlements in Egypt, such as modern Cairo and Giza, were located right along the corridor of the river Nile.

Houses of the ancient Egyptians were built of bricks made from mud. The mud was collected in leather buckets and taken to the building site. Workers added straw and pebbles to the mud to strengthen the bricks. This mixture was then poured into wooden brick frames or molds and the bricks were left out in the sun to dry and to cure.

After a time these dwellings deteriorated and new ones were built right on top of the crumbled material, creating hills, called tells. Only buildings that were meant to last forever were made of stone. After the house was built it was covered with plaster, very similar to the technique used in adobe housing in the American Southwest.

Inside the house, the plaster was often painted with either bright geometric patterns or scenes from nature. The interior of the houses were cool as the small windows let in only a little light.

Egyptian houses were typically built in along the Nile. They had to be built high in order to avoid annual flooding (inundation) from the Nile. The living areas were often on the top floors and many activities were done on the roof of the houses. High sand dunes were erected as barriers from to protect them from flood water.

There were two types of homes typical in Egypt, the home of the workers and the town house. The average dimension of the workers house was approximately 4m by 20m. A typical workers home ranged from two to four rooms on the ground level, an enclosed yard, a kitchen at the back of the house and two underground cellars for storage. Niches in the walls held religious objects. The roof was also used as living space and storage.

There was little furniture save beds and small chests for keeping clothes. There was no running water and sometimes a single well served an entire town. Egyptian villagers spent most of their time outdoors. They often slept, cooked, and ate atop their houses' flat roofs.

Entering from the street, there were steps into the entrance hall. The entrance hall had a cupboard bed, the use of which is uncertain. The next room had a distinctive wooden pillar in the middle supporting the roof. This was the main room of the house, and it was used as a shrine or a reception area.

The master of the house had his master’s chair sitting on top of a raised platform. There were several stools and one or two tables for the guests, and the room was lit by a high small window above the roof of the first room. This room was decorated with holy images along the walls, and a table with offerings in front of a false door. Underneath the master's raised platform (dais), a trap door led down a flight of stairs into the cellar where valuables could be kept.

Behind the central room was a hall with a door on the side leading to a bedroom. The bedroom and the roof were used interchangeably as resting areas. At the end of the hall was the kitchen with an open roof and from the kitchen a door led to another cellar that served as a pantry. Different heights in the rooves allowed for more private windows in the house.

The homes of the wealthy and noble classes were large. The typical town houses of ancient Egypt had many features similar to the workers houses. Town houses were typically two to three stories high. They were typically more spacious and more comfortable than the worker's houses.

They had high walls that supported multiple-story buildings by reinforcing them with beams. In multi-story homes, stones were often used in the first floor for greater strength at the base. The first level of the house was usually the working area where business was conducted, and servants would remain. The second and third floors are more adorned and were the living areas of the house with similar features to the worker's home.

The food was prepared on the roof and brought down to the rooms by the servants. Cooking was done outside because it was considered dangerous to cook in an enclosed area inside the house. Cooling was also a factor to keeping cooking outside.
Egyptians tried to keep their houses cool from the prevalent warm temperatures. Windows were built close to the ceilings in order to maintain cool temperatures indoors. Also mats were often spread on the floors for cooling.

Proper sanitation was a luxury that only the wealthier townspeople could have. They would have toilets carved of limestone, and the sewage would be disposed of into pits in the streets.

Even wealthy ancient Egyptians had a very limited assortment of furniture. A low, square stool, the corners of which flared upwards and had a leather seat or cushion on top, was the most common type of furnishing. Chairs were rare and belonged only to the very wealthy. Small tables were made of wood or wicker and had three to four legs.

Beds were made of a woven mat placed on wooden framework standing on animal-shaped legs. At one end was a footboard and at the other was a headrest made of a curved neckpiece set on top of a short pillar on an oblong base.

Lamp stands held lamps of simple bowls of pottery containing oil and a wick. Chests were used to store domestic possessions such as linens, clothing, jewellery, and make-up.

The garden had a formal pool and rows of trees and shrubs. The well was conveniently located near the garden and the cattle yard. It consisted of a wide hole in which a flight of steps led down to a platform. Water was drawn up from this using a rope and bucket. Foundations were generally non-existent.

Virgin soil above groundwater level was baked rock hard by the sun and needed just some levelling. In order to build on top of collapsed dwellings, the clay rubble was well watered and let to set and harden.

Wealthy Egyptian people had spacious estates with comfortable houses. The houses had high ceilings with pillars, barred windows, tiled floors, painted walls, and stair cases leading up to the flat rooves where they could overlook the estate. There would be pools and gardens, servant's quarters, wells, granaries, stables, and a small shrine for worship. The wealthy lived in the countryside or on the outskirts of a town.

There are two examples of excavated villages, one at El-Amarna, and the other at Deir el-Medina. The worker's village at El-Amarna was laid out along straight narrow streets, within a boundary wall. The houses were small, barrack-like dwellings, where animals lived side by side with people.

Many houses had keyhole-shaped hearths and jars sunk into the floor. There was no well in the village and the water had to be brought from some distance away.
Life must have been far more pleasant in the village of Deir el-Medina, home to the workers of the Theban royal tombs. There was a single street with ten houses on either side. The houses in this village had three large rooms, a yard and a kitchen, underground cellars for storage, and niches in the walls for statues of household gods.

For all that, I would still like the chance to visit there. When I go time travelling.

29 January 2008

Daily Life: Shopping in Vienna

By Jennifer Linforth

There was a certain view of Vienna in the 19th century, carefree, happy--oblivious to the world outside. The popular view of the Viennese woman of the time was beautiful, upbeat and blonde. The opposite was true. They were down to earth. Cosmetics were a simple application of rice powder and a bit of cologne. What was fashionable was a more natural look--opposite that of Parisian society. Paris had all the fashionable clothing, much like today. The woman of the bourgeois class in Vienna even if they had a sizable income preferred their clothing to be made at home.

Hats however were another story. They came from Paris and were not to be trifled with. The hat was the most important part of their wardrobe. Covered in lively colors with feathers and fauna--the hat told a story of adventure and fancy.

(This blogger must place a side note here, or else I would not be doing my other job as a National Park Ranger. These feather bedecked hats were the rage in all major fashion centers across Europe and in the states. Fashion often went beyond feathers, to incorporate beaks and entire birds. Until a woman by the name of Harriet Hemenway, a Bostonian bird lover, objected to seeing women wearing dead birds upon their heads. Her crusade to get elite woman to join a society for the protection of birds--and thus remove their feathered head coverings--led to the creation of a modest organization she named the Audubon Society. Armed with a few determined women, Hemenway encouraged federal and state legislation to ban plume hunting and stop the importation of feathers stripped from migratory birds. The rest is history.)

Despite the extravagance of the hat, women overall were frugal in their daily shopping exhibitions. They usual took a servant along with them, for it was not respectable to stand outside a store alone. Most shops were family owned businesses specializing in one thing or another. The idea of large departments stores did not exist. Viennese women--bargained. And were quite good at it.

If the Viennese traveled about the city during their daily outings and did not own a carriage they could hire one. The least expensive was the fiaker with two horses or an einspänner with one. Again--bargain with your fare--most Viennese preferred foot travel. Occasionally the streets were crowded by the finest carriages ever seen--the court equipages. Lavishly painted four seat coaches drawn by two or four horses proudly displaying the doubled headed Austrian eagle on the doors. The coachman wore his trademark two cornered hat and was charged with hustling visiting dignitaries and tutors to the Habsburg children (and there were a lot of Habsburg children.) Unmistakable to a Viennese family out for a stroll, was the Kaiser's coach--reserved for him, his children and his wife. Black on top, green on bottom with green and gold wheels--it was hard to miss.

Life in Vienna was hard to miss--it was unlike any place in the world.

28 January 2008

Daily Life: Snuff--No Grimaces Allowed!

Sandra Schwab
By Sandra Schwab

By the Regency, snuff had become the preferred choice of tobacco in the fashionable world and had replaced pipes and cigars. In this, the beau monde followed once again the example of dandy extraordinaire Beau Brummell, and what's more, he also dictated how snuff was to taken: according to Brummell, snuff boxes should be opened and snuff transferred from box to nose with only one hand, which naturally required practice and concentration. To take a pinch of snuff in an offhand manner--even better: in the middle of a conversation--without glancing at either snuff or snuff box and, most importantly, without any grimacing, was considered highest art.

Snuff-taking was an expensive habit--not only did the prices for snuff ran high, but the substance also had to be carried around in a suitable container: the snuff-boxes of the rich were intricate pieces of workmanship. The lids were often decorated with miniatures depicting animals, children, pastoral scenes, or--less innocently--erotic scenes.

"If you knew a man intimately," Gronow writes in RECOLLECTIONS AND ANECDOTES: A SECOND SERIES OF REMINISCENCES (1863), "He would offer you a pinch out of his own box; but if others, not so well acquainted, wishes for a pinch, it was actually refused. In those days of snuff-taking, at the tables of great people, and the messes of regiments, snuff-boxes of large proportions followed the bottle, and everybody was at liberty to help himself."

Snuff was provided in dry or moist versions, many of which were scented as well, with jasmine, orange flowers, musk roses, or bergamot. It came in different colours, ranging from yellow to brown, black or even purple. Detailed descriptions of different kinds of snuff can be found in Arnold James Cooley's CYCLOPAEDIA OF SIX THOUSAND PRACTICAL RECEIPTS (1854):

Text not available
Read this book: A Cyclopaedia of Six Thousand Practical Receipts, and Collateral Information by Arnold James Cooley

27 January 2008

My Lady Innocent Winner

We have a winner for Annie Burrows' My Lady Innocent giveaway: Margaret! Contact Annie to give her your address. Your prize must be claimed by next Sunday or another winner will be drawn. Please stop back later to let us know what you thought of her novel! Congratulations!

Guest Blogger: Anita Davison

Anita Davison
Please welcome Anita Davison as this week's guest author! She's the author of Duking Days Rebellion, published by Enspiren Press.

Helena Woulfe, the daughter of a wealthy Exeter nobleman leads a privileged life. However, King Charles II's reign ends, so does her innocence. Rebellion sweeps the West Country and leaving her on the road searching for her missing father and brother after Monmouth's bloody defeat in battle at Sedgemoor.

Her life is torn apart when soldiers ransack her home and the family estate is confiscated by the crown. Helena and her younger brother Henry, seek refuge with a family who take them in, but King James wants revenge. Bereft and abandoned, they go to London. Helena hopes the city will overlook their past and she can make a new life for herself, and perhaps find love.
***

What is the most challenging part about writing 17th century historicals?
The language is difficult, purely because if I attempted to reproduce authentic dialogue, no one would be able to understand it. I include just enough colloquial terms to give a flavour of the time, but without bogging down the dialogue with oblique and incomprehensible phrases.

Duking Days RebellionWhat about this book in particular?
The Monmouth Rebellion actually happened and the details are well recorded. I had to incorporate facts, timing and real people into the story and make them credible without looking 'planted.' It wasn't easy.

When I was researching Rebellion, something brought home to me that even four hundred years afterwards, local feelings run deep about the Western Rising. I included this incident in an author's note at the beginning of the book to remind me to take care with the facts. This was a period of real suffering in the west of England and its effects were felt for a long time afterwards.

What is it about the 17th century England that makes you want to write during that period?
The mid to late 1600s were a time of radical change in politics and the way people thought. The Whigs were the prosperous middle classes who were making their mark through industry, trade and manufacturing. This new class was demanding a say in the running of their country which had always been a benign, or in some cases not so benign, dictatorship.

The men of this time spawned the principles of free speech and freedom of worship, tenets we take for granted in our modern world. I was interested in the way people lived before those inalienable rights were part of our lives.

Give us a tidbit of history that surprised you when researching.
In the early 1660s, to promote the English woolen trade, Charles II levied high import taxes on foreign fabrics and made it illegal to bury people in shrouds not made of wool. However most people thought this was bad form and anyone who was anyone was still buried in a linen shroud. "Searchers" were sent out to examine the dead before burial to establish cause of death and record it in the Bills of Mortality. If the body was wrapped in anything other than wool, they had to pay a fine.

What advice would you give to anyone trying to write 17th century historicals?
Do your research thoroughly. This isn't difficult for me as I love reading everything I can lay my hands on about the period. I also live in London so can get my "fix" of history pretty much whenever I want.

When I am writing, I have to remember that I might be fascinated with the political minutiae, but readers want to be entertained, not plough through reams of political facts churned out like a history book. They expect to experience a life in a totally different world which looks, smells and sounds different from the modern one they inhabit. To do this convincingly, you need to immerse yourself in the period to draw an accurate picture and sprinkle the narrative with historical details, but not so much it turns into an "info dump."

What is your favorite genre or period to read?
Apart from the 17th century, I like the late Victorian genre and some medieval stories. Michael Jecks' medieval detective stories for example are thoroughly enjoyable. His characters operate within the rules of life in the fourteenth century and some of his stories are based in Exeter, where I once lived and know well. Superimposing the medieval city on the modern one in my head fascinates me as most of it is still there.

I like historical fiction where the characters are true to their time, but if they step too far outside convention, like where a lord marries a barmaid and they attend a court ball, for instance, I cannot suspend reality enough to enjoy the story.

Favorite book from the past year?
And Only To Deceive by Tasha Alexander. Her Victorian heroine relishes her freedom as a wealthy widow and lives an independent life defying some of the restrictive conventions. She’s not outrageous or scandalous, but she goes her own way without apologizing for it.

Tell us what part of Duking Days Rebellion is your favorite--the scene or element that, when you read it, leaves you feeling most satisfied?
In the second half of the book, my heroine, Helena Woulfe is threatened by an old adversary. This put me in a quandary as how does a 17th century, unmarried woman get the better of a wealthy, influential man and yet still retain her respectability.

I decided her best route would be to enlist the help of a powerful ally, so she approaches John Evelyn. He was a famous diarist and a friend of Charles II, Samuel Pepys, Christopher Wren and knew everyone who was anyone in Restoration England. He was also a member of the Privy Council, so he certainly had influence. His character is well documented and I tried to portray him in the way people might imagine him. That chapter was difficult, but I hope I succeeded.

Duking Days RevolutionWhat's up next for you?
The sequel to Duking Days Rebellion, Duking Days Revolution, will be released soon. I had to reduce the word count of both novels by a considerable amount, and was left with a lot of storyline I couldn't use.

I'm working on a prequel which uses the background history of the Woulfes that I had to remove, filling in some gaps. My publisher doesn't know about that yet, so I have no idea whether they will want to do anything with it, but I'm enjoying the exercise anyway.

***

Thanks, Anita! Duking Days Rebellion can be purchased through Amazon.

Anita is giving away one copy of Duking Days Rebellion. All you need to do is post a comment. Feel free to ask a question! The winner will be chosen at random next Sunday. Be sure to check back next week to find out who has won!

25 January 2008

Weekly Announcements - 25 Jan 08

Can you believe it? No announcements this week! So quiet...

Join us Sunday when our guest author will be Anita Davison. She'll be discussing her book Duking Days Rebellion, set in the tumultuous years of England in the 17th century. We'll also draw the winner of a copy of Annie Burrows' book My Lady Innocent. Leave a comment for your chance to win.

***

Have a good weekend. If you have an announcement to make for next week, email Carrie! See you next week...

24 January 2008

Daily Life: Thursday 13 at Sea



By Marianne LaCroix

Thirteen Things about Daily Life in the 1700s in the British Royal Navy:

1. The Ship's Bell was used to note the passage of time. When the half hour glass was turned, the bell was tolled.

2. Officers did not have to wear uniforms while at sea. The crew knew who were officers, and uniforms were expensive. They saved their best for important occasions ashore. Second best was typical for receiving a fellow officer at sea.

3. Sailors (non-officers) wore whatever shoes, shirts and pants they had for duty at sea. Sometimes the canvas rigging was used to make clothes. (I assume this would be from sails beyond repair after a battle. ~MLC)

4. Shore goin' rig for sailors were different from clothing worn on duty. They attempted neatness to appear respectable. There were no uniforms, but the men did present themselves accordingly to express the pride and honor of their skills and ship.

5. Shore goin' rig (continued) - Hats were blackened with tar to make them waterproof. Ribbon on hat could be embroidered with name of ship. Jackets were commonly wool and had no universal color. Neckcloths were decorative but could be used as a headpiece or bandage. Trousers were commonly made of canvas (see #3). These are only samples...there was no uniform for the common seaman.

6. At sea, seamen were allotted 18 inches for their hammock with other seamen sleeping on either side.

7. The captain was the only member on board who had the privilege of privacy. He had his own cabin, although it was small and usually stored a variety of navigational equipment.

8. There were three watches on board ship--first, second and third watches. One would be on duty while the second was "at ease" and the third slept, and on and on in rotation.

9. Among the daily food rations included beer, water, and bread. Other foods rationed over a week, but not daily, included salt pork, oatmeal, dried beef, and hard cheese. (No wonder they all had scurvy!~MLC)

10. Ship surgeons required some sort of certification to serve as surgeon, but it was rare to have an actual, trained doctor aboard.

11. James Cook (1728-1779) introduced the use of lime juice and sauerkraut on his ships to fight scurvy based on a study conducted in 1747 by Dr. James Lind. (see #9) He also encourages bathing and exercise to his crew. It wasn't until 1795 when lime juice was distributed by the Royal Navy to all ships to fight scurvy. (Vitamin C, the substance that prevented scurvy, wasn't discovered until 1932.)

12. Navigating was done via compass, lunar observation, and chronometer. They were used to calculate longitude. (Don't ask me to explain this, it is beyond my non-technical mind. ~MLC)

13. Prizes, or defeated enemy ships, were the property of the Crown until reviewed by the Admiralty (head of the Royal Navy). After this, the ship would be sold and the money divided among the officers and crew as previously agreed upon. This is how young men went to sea to make their fortune.

Research sources:
PlantExplorers.net
Mr Collins (The site is half there, half not.)

Marianne LaCroix
Crossed Swords, Ellora's Cave

22 January 2008

Daily Life: Get out the wash board!

By Vicki Gaia

The domestic arts were essential for keeping a decent house in Colonial America. Even so, men gave little regard to women's chores, offering a third or fourth less wages for domestic help compared to a man's wages for agricultural labor.

The majority of Americans clothed themselves in homemade woolens, linen, and "towcloth" made from flax. Daughters often took the task of spinning, and unmarried women of the household, hence the term 'spinster'. Once the thread was ready, it was usually taken to a weaver in the village in exchange for goods or labor. Weaving wasn't as widespread as spinning, and not ever household had a hand loom. The cloth had to be cut and sewn into garments. Skill with a needle and thread, and sewing, were synonymous with womanhood.

"I somehow or somewhere got the idea," wrote Lucy Larcom, "when I was a small child, that the chief end of woman was to make clothing for mankind." [The Reshaping of Everyday Life by Jack Larkin]

The process of making butter and cheese still had a mysterious air about it. This attitude lingered from the witch hunt days, when trouble with cattle and milk was enough to accuse a woman of witchcraft. While women were safe from the pyre for curling milk, the process remained a magical transformation. In a corner of the kitchen, shed, or springhouse, women churned milk into butter and cheese without worries.

Butter took over an hour to churn, and then it was kneaded and pressed into solid consistency. A talented dairywoman could make good money by packing her flavorful butter into tubs or crocks, marking it with a distinctive butter stamp, and selling it or trading it for goods. Cheese-making was more widespread north of Pennsylvania and also provided a decent trade for women.

Cooking was the center of a woman's daily life. "Women needed to know the craft of salting, pickling and smoking meat to preserve it, of making wheat or "rye and Indian" bread, johnnycake or hominy, of stewing, roasting and frying. Salt, sugar, sugar, spices and coffee had to be taken in bulk form, ground and pounded." [The Reshaping of Everyday Life by Jack Larkin]

Can you image lifting heavy iron pots to set on the hearth, or hooking it to a crane which swung over the fire? This visual is enough to make my back hurt! The quantity of kitchen equipment depended on the family's wealth. If you were lucky to be affluent, you'd have various pots and kettles, gridirons and toasting forks, and a large fireplace oven. If not, often bread was baked in ashes and there'd only be one pot to cook in.

I'm doing a load of laundry as I type this post, and usually, I complain about having to wash clothes. Spoiled me! Back then, women rose before sunrise to begin their washing day. In the morning, they scrubbed and pounded their clothes in tubs of near-boiling water and homemade soft soap - washing, rinsing and repeating the cycle. In the afternoon, the washed clothes were spread out to dry.

The Industrial Revolution was about to change the lives of women by providing convenient appliances to shorten her work load.

21 January 2008

Daily Life: The Food of Kenya

By Jennifer Mueller

Say African food and you get a myriad of options: from Arabic inspired North Africa and the coast of East Africa to the Maasai drinking blood and milk, spicy Ethiopian to San Bushmen eating what they find--the same as they have for thousands of years. While the cities might sport as modern a kitchen as you can find, the countryside still cooks over an open fire. Where I lived in Kenya, the traditional kitchen was a room separate from the rest of the house, with thatched high roofs. It allows the smoke to rise and filter through the thatch, an odd sight to see smoking roofs as you walk by. Only with the advent of tin roofs have lung problems occurred.

The daily routine is centered on water. If you have it close you save hours. If you have to walk kilometers to find a source, things get more complicated. Kenyan breakfast is usually a cup of chai--watered down milk with enough tea and sugar to flavor it--and a thick slice of bread and blue band with a margarine product needing no refrigeration. Uji is also popular, a ground millet sort of porridge with or without fermentation. For anything else, it takes time. Quite a bit of it. There are very few snack foods other than fruit: mangoes, papaya, guava, passion fruit, maybe an orange or pineapple, and little bananas as big around as a silver dollar and half the length of the ones we see in the store. They're like eating candy.

Market day is the center of any village, usually held twice a week. Everyone with something to sell would descend, whether it was a woman with 10 mangoes looking for some extra cash or a seller who went to the larger town and found treasures that no one else had. Staples usually ran along the lines of beans (up to 20 sorts), rice in some areas, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, onions, cabbage, kale, fruits and, when in season, peas and green beans. Up the mountain where there was access to Mount Kenya, odd fruits--giant green and ugly--could be found if anyone was ambitious enough to go find them.

Kenya was a British colony, but in building the railroad to Uganda, there were thousands of Indians who arrived to work. Modern day Kenyan food is a mix of traditional Kenyan and Indian. Small packets of curry can be bought for only a few cents. Seasonings are minimal: salt, curry, mchuzi mix, bouillon cubes, sometimes hot peppers. But with it they create quite the variety.

It all depends on where you live what you would be eating. In one area the staple food is githeri, another irio, and across the country you haven't eaten unless you've had ugali. All are based on corn to some degree. Githeri is a simple combination of maize and beans. Irio is a mixture of potatoes, maize, and pumpkin leaves. Ugali is corn meal cooked like stiff grits, mainly used as a filler for a soup of some kind.

In the area where I lived, the basis for most dishes were tomatoes and onions. They would be fried in melted shortening before adding the rest, whether beans, kale, cabbage, or githeri, green grams. A few dishes went without, such as mashed bananas and potatoes--only made with green plantains so it is starchy rather than sugary. Mashed potatoes and pigeon peas were served on special occasions.

Meat is expensive. Most families might only eat it only once or twice a week. A special treat is nyama choma, or bits of roast meat. Some places season it; others just cook it plain, like grilling steak. Chickens are raised by most families, as well as goats, cows and, in the north, camel. It's lean meat with no marbling at all. It just takes a little more prep since the connective tissue is rather hard to chew through if left in large pieces.

The coast is an entity unto itself. Middle Eastern spices and coastal ingredients like coconuts all mix to create a menu unlike any in the rest of the country. They make pilau--rice thick with spices and fried--and potatoes cooked in coconut milk, just to name a few.

Barbecued Meat
1 kilo meat
Juice of 2 lemons
2 pounded onions
2 crushed chilies
4 crushed cloves
salt to taste

Marinate: Clean meat and make a few stripes 1/2" deep all over meat. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and let stand for 2 hours.

Barbecue: Prepare the charcoal fire and place grilling wire on top. Place meat on the wire and roast it on a very low heat. Cook evenly on both sides. Garnish with lemon slices. Serve with potatoes.

Pigeon Pea Sauce
1 cup pigeon Peas
2 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions
seasoning
1 cup milk

Cook the peas in the water until soft. Fry the onions in the butter until golden brown and add the peas. Cook until all the water is dry. Mash the peas into a paste. Season well and add the milk. Reheat and serve with mashed potatoes or bananas.

Ugali
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup maize meal
1/2 dessertspoon dried skim milk powder
salt

Boil water. Sieve maize meal, dried skim milk powder, and salt. Add sieved flour to boiling water. Cook for a few minutes stirring continuously. Serve with stewed meat.

Beef stew
1 lb cut beef
2 carrots
2 green peppers
4 tomatoes
4 onions
Coriander
Curry powder
Black pepper
Seasoning salt, cooking oil, salt

Fry the onions that have been chopped until they turn brown. Add tomatoes and chopped green pepper. Add carrots, black pepper and coriander. Wash the cut meat and sprinkle it with seasoning salt. When the carrots have become slightly soft, add the cut meat. When meat is almost cooked, add some curry powder and salt to taste.

Pilau rice
1.5 lb rice (water according to rice)
1/2 lb green peas
2 T pilau masala (type of spice)
3 onions
3 tomatoes
Oil
Salt

Wash the rice with cold water. Boil the peas until cooked. Chop onions and then fry until slightly brown. Add tomatoes that have been peeled and cut. Boil some of the rice water with the pilau masala until it boils. Add some salt to taste. Add the rest of the water to the fried onions and tomatoes. Add the green peas when the water starts boiling and the rice; let it cook.

Chapati
1 cup flour
1 T shortening
1/2 t. or less salt

Melt shortening in a small frying pan. DO NOT boil it. Mix shortening with flour and salt. Mix with warm water (add just a little bit of water at a time and mix the dough thoroughly, make sure the dough is not hard). Keep for at least one hour. Separate dough into small rolls similar to oven cupcake buns. Use rolling pin and roll the dough balls each on a large flat surface as you roll the pin spread a little shortening on the dough and then tear the now flat pizza like dough spread from the center by pulling evenly to all edges and cut one side so you are left with a long lean piece of dough in your hands. Roll it into a coil (snakes) from each end in opposite directions (one clock wise and the other end counter clock wise) when they get together, then twist one of the collected coil and put it over the other.

Clean area over the oven top and keep a wide flat heavy/thick frying pan on the cooking range, turn on the cooker at low. Leave the dough for about 10 minutes then roll with rolling pin on flat surface into an evenly spread round (pizza like) thin spread. Turn the heat on to medium using oiling brush, spread a little shortening evenly all around the pan and cook the chapatis. Keep turning (rotating it) to ensure even cooking and turn over and keep pressing after turning and also put shortening on top but not too much and keep on pressing in the frying pen until light brown.

20 January 2008

Guest Blogger: Annie Burrows

Annie Burrows
Hi! My name is Annie Burrows and I'm here to blog about my new release from Mills & Boon, My Lady Innocent. It will be released in the UK in paperback on February 1st.

Set in 1486, My Lady Innocent tells the story of an heiress obliged to marry a stranger for political considerations, a common enough event in medieval times. However, Maddy's husband is no lord, but a commoner knighted for his services to Henry Tudor. What is more, Maddy herself comes from a family who fought against the king at the battle of Bosworth. This sets the scene for plenty of conflict!

My Lady Innocent by Annie Burrows
As the nobility jostles for the new King's favour, Maddy is all alone. Landless and friendless, she is now beginning to suspect that someone wants her dead…So she accepts a bridegroom she has never met, intending to find peace at home.

But peace is in short supply when Maddy marries Sir Geraint, a powerful protector and a passionate man. Fiercely loyal to the King, Geraint cannot trust his Yorkist bride--but neither can he resist her innocent temptation!
Where did you find the inspiration for the character of Sir Geraint?
During Henry's years of exile in Brittany and France, many people showed their support for him in various ways. He never forgot an act of kindness, and when he came to the throne, he made sure he rewarded everyone who had helped him, often with positions of honour. For example, Hugh Conway, who had only served as a messenger from Henry's mother, Margaret Beaufort, was made the Keeper of the Great Wardrobe for life.

But even more fascinating was the story of the Paston family, who started out as serfs. After the devastation of the Black Death, many peasant families began to hire themselves out as labour was in such short supply. The Pastons managed to earn enough to send their son John to law school. He married an heiress, bought as much land as he could get his hands on, and eventually inherited a castle from one of his wife's noble relatives. So in two generations, the family had gone from being serfs, to living in a castle.

My hero, Sir Geraint, starts off the lowly son of a family of merchants. He serves Henry Tudor in his exile, and is rewarded with a knighthood, land, and the promise of a title for his heirs.

Shipton CastleWhat made you want to set a novel in this time period?
The nation underwent such a change during Henry Vll's reign. The battle of Bosworth ended the Wars of the Roses, and Henry's policies eventually established stability. But at the start of his reign, the noble houses still clung onto their former loyalties, and rebellion was always a possibility. This gave me the chance to introduce deeper elements of conflict to my two main characters, apart from the usual suspicions that can exist between the sexes. Yorkist and Lancastrian, nobility and commoner, male and female, Maddy and Sir Geraint have umpteen reasons to be suspicious of each other.

What was the most challenging part of writing this story?
Cutting it down to a word count acceptable to my publisher! I had so much to say about my characters and their background, that I submitted a manuscript that was ten thousand words too long! Fortunately, my editors saw the potential of the story, and gave me a lot of help in where to make the cuts, although there were tears shed along the way.

How did you go about doing the research for this book?
Because I am not a historian, I really wanted to make sure that I did not put anything inaccurate in this book. I hate it when I'm reading a story, and something crops up which I know is just plain wrong. It ruins the atmosphere for me, no matter how gripped I was before the error cropped up, so I was determined not to do this to any of my readers. I started in my local library, reading everything I could about the period running up to the time Henry VII came to the throne, for the background detail. Then I read everything I could find about Henry Tudor's life and background. I spent a marvellous weekend at a medieval re-enactment event held at Skipton Castle, where I learned about everyday life in a castle, as well as gleaning essential details about medieval field surgery which I put to good use in a scene where Sir Geraint is ambushed by rebels. I also trawled the internet to check facts regarding, amongst other things, breeds of fighting dogs, the science of quicksand, horse behaviour, and the regalia and ceremony connected with knights of the garter. Much of what I learned sits unused in a large folder…fodder for another story perhaps?

The cover looks very romantic. Did you choose this picture yourself?
No, but I have to admit I am very pleased with it. The hero looks like Sir Geraint as I imagined him, and the heroine is wearing exactly the sort of gown I would have pictured her in at that point in the story. I happen to know that, following the kiss they are contemplating here, they embark on what I think is one of the hottest scenes in the book. Because I know what is going to happen next, it makes me shiver every time I look at it!

Do you plan to write any other books set during the Tudor period?
Not immediately, but I would love to at some stage, if my publishers will let me. I have a couple of ideas for stories set during the reign of Elizabeth I, dealing with the difficulties faced by families who remained staunch Catholics. One of them involves a younger son of such a family going off to sea and becoming a pirate...

What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a novella which will come out in a Christmas anthology in the States round about November 2008. It is set during the Regency period (sorry!) in England, and deals with a man who returns from the Peninsular war to discover he has been declared dead in his absence. A cousin has taken his title, his son has been declared illegitimate, and his "widow" is living in poverty.

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Thanks for dropping by! My Lady Innocent can be purchased through the Mills & Boon website or via Annie's website.

Annie is giving away one copy of My Lady Innocent. All you need to do is post a comment. Maybe you could talk about your favourite novel set in Tudor times or ask her a question about her writing and research. The winner will be chosen at random. Be sure to check back next week to find out who has won!

18 January 2008

Weekly Announcements - 18 Jan 08

Michelle Styles' A Christmas Wedding Wager has been nominated in the "Best European Historical" category in the All About Romance Reader's Poll.

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Vicki Gaia's book Eliza's Hope has received an excellent review from Romance Reviews Today:

I loved this book. I was completely pulled into the story, right from the very first page. Eliza is an amazing character, a woman with firm beliefs and the strength to stand up for her convictions. This story is steeped with the details of the time, and I could fairly hear the shouts at the suffrage rallies! ELIZA'S HOPE shows that even those with the bleakest of beginnings can overcome enormous obstacles and find their own happily-ever-after. This is truly a wonderful book."

~ Kay James
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Join us Sunday when our guest author will be Christine Burrows!

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Have a good weekend. If you have an announcement to make for next week, email Carrie! See you next week...

17 January 2008

Thursday Thirteen: Farm Chores before Breakfast

By Jacquie Rogers

In the Old West, farm chores lasted from dawn to dark, and even after dark, mending clothes, soaping leather, and that sort of thing still had to be done. This list is typical of what a family would expect to accomplish before breakfast. The day starts just before first light, and remember, they didn't have central heat.

1. Start the fire in the stove.
2. Pump and heat water for washing, and get dressed.
3. Feed the chickens.
4. While hens are occupied, gather the eggs.
5. Pitch hay to the horses.
6. While horses are occupied, check for injuries and clean the stalls.
7. Grain the steers.
8. Grain the cows and milk them. (This counts for all thirteen items. You wouldn't believe how tired your hands get.)
9. Separate the milk, store the milk and cream in the spring house, and wash the buckets.
10. Feed the pigs and nursing calves.
11. Pump water for all the animals.
12. Get the field equipment ready so you can hitch the horses as soon as breakfast is over.
13. Wash up and cook breakfast.

Even today, farmers have to do about half these chores before breakfast, but electricity has definitely made watering animals and milking cows much easier.

Farm breakfasts were no meager affair. A typical menu might be bacon, fried eggs, fried potatoes, biscuits and gravy, strawberry preserves, oatmeal and cream, and coffee. Then again, they had worked up quite an appetite. Besides, after breakfast, the hard work began.

Ah, I do love living in the 'burbs!

Valentine's Day Contest: Tell me your own faery special romance and you could win cool prizes! Details on the contest page of my website.

Princess Keely, Star of Faery Special Romances

Jacquie Rogers *** Myspace *** Bebo *** Faery World

Faery Special Romances (see the book video)

Royalties go to Children's Tumor Foundation,
ending Neurofibromatosis through Research

Coming soon: Down Home Ever Lovin' Mule Blues

16 January 2008

Daily Life: At Home, or the Art of Calling

By Michelle Styles

The formal visit or the call.

It is an art that is all but forgotten now but it was the lifeblood of Regency/Victorian society. It was a way of maintaining status and making sure niceties were observed. It also meant that women could choose to be *at home* or receiving callers on certain days. These were generally set days of the week. In London during the Victorian period, certain neighbourhoods divided up into given days of the week. So for example, Mayfair on a Monday. This made it easier to pay a number of calls in very quick succession. On other days, they could be engaged in other activities. Equally it meant that houses only had to be in the state to receive visitors on certain days. (I have some small sympathy with this approach as tidying up is not one of my favourite activities.)

Servants were informed. Women could be *at home* to intimate friends in the library but not to others. For a servant not to know if the occupant was in or out was considered very poor housekeeping.

The system was very formal and proscribed. These were not informal visits to friends but ways of maintaining the social fabric. The main injunction was when calling not to be a potted plant. In other words, you stayed for a short period of time, generally ranging between three and fifteen minutes. You might sip a cup of tea or coffee and you would engage in general conversation. It was considered bad manner to look at a clock. The proper lady was just supposed to know and leave. Women would often choose appropriate topics of conversation -- the weather or the latest play or places of interest to see. This way you would be less tempted to mention unmentionables.

There were strict rules about which room you were shown to. If you were seeing a male occupant, it would mostly be the study or the library. Or if you were visiting the lady of the house, it would be the drawing room.

Cards were also important. It was how friendships and basic social interactions were controlled. One left cards when one arrived in a city for example, within a few days of being invited to dine, after a dinner party/function, illness in the family, a death or if one was taking leave. Cards were used to form the basis of lists for invitations to balls for example. If a card/call was not returned within ten days, the caller knew the friendship would not be returned.

The calls after a marriage were some of the most important of a bride's life because it was when she could leave behind certain friendships without fear of censorship.

If one was leaving town and wished one's acquaintances to know of the matter, the initials p.p.c would be written on the left hand corner in ink. PPC stands for pour pendre change or to take leave. It simply meant the person was going, and was not considered a special note of admiration.

It appears to be a complex system but it was readily understood.

15 January 2008

Daily Life:
A Day in a Life Without Hope

By Bonnie Vanak

Ever imagine what daily life was like for a poor child living in a crime-ridden slum during Victorian times?

It takes little imagination for me, because I've seen daily life in one of the largest, poorest and most violent slums in our hemisphere. You see, I work and travel as a writer for a large international charity. While in Haiti last week I met a young girl whose sad eyes told a story echoed through the centuries; a story of hunger, pain and poverty.

A day in her life is much the same as a day in the life of a poor child living in a slum during Victorian times. Or the Georgian period. Or even Regency London.

The only difference is the ghetto is in Haiti and the time period is January 2008.


Cite Soleil, which translates to Sun City, in Haiti is just an hour and half plane ride from Miami, but it’s traveling back through time. No electricity. No running water, no cable, no sanitation. Transportation is typically on foot. Houses are doll-sized tin shacks jammed against each other, sagging against each other in endless lines of tin, wood and scrap metal. Sluggish rivers of foul algae-choked water move in a network of canals that hold drainage water--the sewage system. Diseases here are the same as they were in past centuries. Typhoid. Polio. TB.

In the past few years, Cite Soleil has been a hotbed of gang violence and ruthless kidnappings. The UN cleared out the trouble spots. As we drove through, I saw bullet holes pockmarking several buildings, scars from the gunfire that rattled through the streets. It's quiet now, very peaceful, but almost everyone knows someone else who was shot, wounded or even killed.

Nelda is eight. I met her in Soleil Seven, one of the 10 sections that subdivide Cite Soleil. She was toting Watson, age one, on her hip. Her little brother's hair was orange, a sign of protein deficiency, a form of malnutrition. Nelda's red and white gingham dress was stained, smudged with dirt and hanging around her thin neck. She was barefoot.

She took us to her home. Her mother was out, trying to earn pennies by selling wheat flour at the market. Nelda was playing babysitter. A little adult, she was cooking the single cup of rice that would feed herself and her siblings for the day. In a first world country, social service workers would be outraged to see a child left alone, cooking over a small open fire. Child neglect. Child endangerment.

Here in Cite Soleil, it's survival. The rice was their only meal.

Nelda told me when she's hungry she hurts inside. Then she mixes a little salt into water and drinks it and the "craving" goes away. Craving, meaning hunger pains from an empty stomach, not a craving for a particular food.

Her home is a simple 10 x 10 wood house in a rabbit warren of shacks in winding lanes so narrow one person can barely squeeze through. The burning sun heats these tiny tin homes like ovens. Nelda's bed is a single sheet and a small rag rug on the concrete floor that is shared by her mother, little brother and sister. There is no furniture. But the few, achingly few, belongings, a few pots, some sandals and clothing, are piled neatly in the corner. The house has a simplicity like a monk's cell, but this is not asceticism by choice. It's grim, stark poverty.

Tears rolled down Nelda's cheeks when she told me she's lost all hope. She has none. Eight years old and she is desperate for espoir, which means hope in Creole. Hope that her baby brother and sister will no longer cry because they are hungry. Hope that there will be food on the table tomorrow. And her greatest hope of all--her secret dream to escape Cite Soleil and its grinding poverty.

Nelda longs to attend school. Her voice grows soft as she confesses about seeing other children walk to school and wishing she could join them. She went to school once. She knows how to write her name. But school is as beyond her reach as living in a mansion. Not when there's only a single cup of rice to share between herself and her two siblings. Survival takes precedence.

A day in Nelda's life consists of finding food to eat, something to chase away the pain seizing her empty belly. A day in Nelda's life is filled with walking the dusty, gritty dirt lanes in search of a kind soul who will share what little they have cooking in their pot. A day in Nelda's life is a long stretch of emptiness, waiting for her mother to earn a few coins so their family will finally have rice to eat.

A day in Nelda's life is filled with many things. Except one thing she truly needs. Hope.

In my dreams, I envision for Nelda a real house with a soft bed, clean water to drink, sanitation, and food enough to chase away hunger for good. I imagine her in a clean, tidy school uniform, bright blue and white ribbons adorning her hair, as she sits at a desk and writes in a workbook.

In my dreams, I see Nelda escaping the wretched poverty that is Cite Soleil. I see her having hope again.

That is what I envision for a day in her life. Someday, I hope it comes true.

14 January 2008

Daily Life: Indentured Servitude

By Anna C. Bowling

I've always wanted to open a colonial story with two characters debating the merits and pitfalls of purchasing an indentured servant rather than owning a slave. A family of sufficient means in the era might have had either, or both as well as hired employees.

Indenture was different from slavery, in that the indentured servant would only serve a specific term. Usually, seven years was standard, though the term could be extended for any number of reasons, fair or foul. During that time, the servant would work for the master, receive food, lodging, and clothing and even learn new skills they could use when their term was over.

For poor people in the British Isles who wanted a new start in the colonies, but couldn't afford passage, indenture was literally their ticket out. A man or woman could sell their indenture, (or parents could sell one for their child) to a colonial master, who would pay their passage, and then work it off as part of their duties. For the poor already across the Atlantic, indenture might be the best way to get a start on the hope of an independent life. While a viable option for many, it could also separate families, with no guarantee of reunion.

An indentured servant would not be allowed to marry during their term, and records exists of women who became pregnant while indentured (even if the father was their master) having their term extended to repay the master time lost when they were unable to perform their duties due to pregnancy and infant care.

With a good master, the arrangement could be beneficial indeed. Upon completion of a term, the former servant could receive money, tools, clothing, or even livestock as part of their pay. With a less scrupulous master, any number of infractions could be used to extend the term, and if the servant ran away, they or their family could even be fined the cost of retrieving them. Young Adult author M.P. Barker used this as the inspiration for her debut novel, A Difficult Boy, set in 1830s Massachusetts. While the date may seem modern for such an arrangement, the practice did continue into the nineteenth century.

Other novels which contain realistic depictions of lives indentured servants and their masters may have led include Sweet Release by Pamela Clare and Roanoke: The Lost Colony by Angela Elwell Hunt.

13 January 2008

Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Lane

Please welcome Elizabeth Lane, our guest blogger for this week. Her newest release is On the Wings of Love from Harlequin Historicals.

Long Island, 1911

Alexandra Bromley has everything her father's money can buy. But what she really wants is excitement, adventure and independence. In an age when women are striking out, exploring the world and making their own rules, her future is set in stone. She's expected to marry a suitable man and continue the Bromley dynasty.

When an aeroplane crashes before her eyes, her whole world changes. The injured pilot, aircraft designer Rafe Garrick, turns out to be the most challenging man Alex has ever known. When he talks about flying, and how it feels to soar above the earth, a new passion is born in her.

Rafe wants nothing to do with a millionaire's spoiled daughter. But Alex's determination wins out. She persuades him to take her flying. Right then and there she resolves to become a pilot. After that... To make a long story short, they succumb to desire and end up having to marry.

For a few months Alex is happy being Rafe's wife and the mother of their unborn child. Then a terrible tragedy strikes, leaving her emotionally shattered. Only one thing can save her. Against Rafe's will, she signs up for flying lessons.

Given Alex's history of taking dangerous chances, Rafe is fearful of losing her. Alex sees his opposition as an attempt to control her, just as her father did. The battles begin--and continue until the rash, impulsive Alex makes the most foolish choice of all. That choice comes close to costing her life, her marriage and something even more precious.
What a great site! I see so many books here that I want to read. I've always been a fan of stories with unusual and exotic settings. It's a real honor to join you as a guest today.

What inspired you to write ON THE WINGS OF LOVE?
I've been fascinated by airplanes since a boy I dated in college took me flying in a tiny Cessna. I remember being terrified--and enchanted. Years later, as I researched the history of aviation for a work project, I was struck by the role of women who defied society to brave the sky in those fragile, unpredictable aeroplanes. Some of them died doing what they loved. My favorite among them was Harriet Quimby--maybe because she was so beautiful and so unconventional for her time. I couldn't resist including her as a character who inspires Alex, my heroine, to become a pilot.

How did you research your story?
This book was a fifteen-year project, worked on in stages and submitted multiple times before it finally sold to Harlequin. For starters, I read and read, and rented every related movie I could find. I ordered books with photos and descriptions of early airplanes, and more books with early pictures and maps of Long Island. Years ago I'd visited the wonderful aviation history museum at Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio, and I probed the depths of my memory. Early in my research I even took a flying lesson with an instructor in a Piper Cherokee. It was a thrilling experience but scary. I do not have the courage of those amazing women who first took to the sky.

Have you written other historicals with unusual settings? Do you plan to write more?
Yes, and yes! My first book, MISTRESS OF THE MORNING STAR (1980) was an epic biography of Marina, the Indian mistress of Hernan Cortes. My second, DRUMS OF DARKNESS, was a sort of Gothic set in Panama, where I once lived. Then I wrote two big historicals set in China in the 1800s. I loved these books and could have gone on writing them forever. But the market changed, my then-publisher folded, and I didn't sell anything for four long years. Finally the new Harlequin Historical line picked up my Western proposal and I found a new home. Westerns are easy to write, easy to sell, and I've built a readership around them. But Harlequin has been supportive of my desire to write books in other settings. Whirling in my head are stories set in Africa, the Amazon, and Nepal, all places I've traveled. Stay tuned.

Elizabeth

For those who respond, I'd like to thank you by drawing three names. The winners will receive their choice of books (with a couple of exceptions because I have so few copies) on my website.

Review: On the Wings of Love

By Delia DeLeest

I had the privilege of getting a sneak peek at Elizabeth Lanes latest, On the Wings of Love, and was immediately brought back to 1911 where flying machines were just starting to make their mark on the world. Where I live in Hawaii, we think nothing of hopping a plane for quick inter-island flights--it's a simple fact of island living. I've never fully appreciated the skill and bravery those pioneer aviators needed to get into a flimsy machine made of canvas and wood and soar where, previously, men had only dreamed of going.

Alexandra Bromley's fascination with this new technology, along with her attraction to handsome pilot Rafe Garrick, was completely believable, as was her desire to flee the confines of the straight-laced society she was born in and to stretch her wings both figuratively and literally. I think she is a perfect example of those brave young women who were just starting to come into their own at the beginning of the last century.

I could also feel for Rafe, torn between his pride in Alex's accomplishments and his fear for her safety. I was real curious how things were going to get wrapped up in the end. Elizabeth did a wonderful job tying everything up in a very believable fashion.

Hopefully, this will be the beginning of many early twentieth century historicals to hit the shelves in the future. My final comment: they say you can't judge a book by its cover, but in this case, please feel free to do so. The cover art is absolutely gorgeous!

Delia
Available Now: IT TAKES MOXIE
Coming Soon: EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

12 January 2008

Weekly Announcements - 12 Jan 08

Sorry I'm late! Here goes:

Carrie Lofty's short story "Sundial" has received a solid review from The Good, the Bad and the Unread:

It's like Picasso does time-travel romance. I will be sad if it misses the audience who will enjoy it because it definitely isn't for everyone. It will be a gem for those looking for something unusual. I'll be looking for more from this author.
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Jennifer Mueller's novel Samburu Hills has been named one of Dear Author's best ebooks of 2007.

Havana Holiday by Jennifer MuellerAlso, Jennifer's newest release "Havana Holiday," a novella set in 1930s Cuba, was released this week.
5 stories, 4 days, 3 nights, 2 times the fun, and 1 heck of a good time. Dahlia, Eve, Nora, Alice, and Marianne; when five women who work together in Depression-era Boston save up for a trip of a lifetime to decadent Havana, anything can happen. With seductive Latin men and rich vacationers at every turn who wouldn't enjoy dancing till dawn, the parties, the nightclubs, the beach, the gambling, and there's always more than one side to a story.

Who can ask for more, fun, sun and hot men to tempt and tease?
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Michelle Styles' ninth book, A Question of Impropriety has been accepted by Mills & Boon. It's the story of Diana Clare, who fled back to Northumberland after her fiance was killed in an infamous duel, and Brett Farnham, the Earl of Coltonby, a notorious prince of rakes and who has won the neighbouring estate in a horse race.

It will be out in November 08 in the UK, US date tbd.

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On the Wings of Love by Elizabeth LaneJoin us Sunday when our guest will be Harlequin Historicals author Elizabeth Lane, whose book On the Wings of Love received a very good review from Dear Author and was one of their January recommended reads. Elizabeth will do a Q&A, and our own Delia DeLeest will offer her review. Don't miss it!

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Have a good weekend. If you have an announcement to make for next week, email Carrie! See you next week...

10 January 2008

Thursday 13: Modern Conveniences

By Morag McKendrick Pippin

Thirteen Modern Everyday Conveniences Not Available Until the Late 20th Century

1) Electric can opener
2) Electric ice crusher
3) Push button TV remote control
4) Remote vehicle starter
5) Automatic garage door opener
6) Infrared burglar alarm
7) Home garbage compacter
8) Sink garbage disposal
9) Battery operated personal fan
10) Laser pointers
11) Robotic vacuum cleaner
12) Digital electronic equipment
13) Microwave ovens

Which one can't you live without? Any not listed here?



09 January 2008

Daily Life: Moorish Hospitality in the Medieval World

By Lisa Yarde

Good food and good company were relished in the medieval Arab world, much the same as today. The roots of hospitality began in the early centuries with the migration of Arabs, who brought the culture of their desert dwellings refined by conversion to Islamic religious principles, to the West by the eighth century. The improvement of culinary arts and attention paid to the treatment of guests practiced in Moorish society evolved into an almost sacred duty.

In Moorish society, all guests were offered shelter and hospitality whether or not it was convenient for the host. Meals and entertainment were shared opportunities for interaction, though the social conventions requiring separations between the sexes where people were not closely related still held away. The extent of the hospitality remained closely related to the honor of the family - to show poor treatment to a guest impugned the reputation of the host.

Women ruled daily life in Moorish homes. Housewives in the noble or royal classes had servants to direct but even the poorest woman in the lowliest dwelling took pride of her home. Women burned incense and aloe wood in metal braziers, or perfumed candles to create a pleasing fragrance that drifted throughout the house. The scents they chose also possessed elements of purification. On arrival and departure, guests were offered braziers to perfume their clothes and hair; hotels around the Arabian Gulf still offer incense burners hefted by waiters even today. Women also hired the entertainment that followed the meal, whether a troupe of dancers or a singer. Most importantly, they supervised or directly participated in the creation of the meal.

To share in a meal in a Moorish home must have been a delight for the senses, with aromatic fragrances vying with the scents of spiced foods. Islamic tradition required that diners eat with the first three fingers of their right hand, and never to touch food with the left hand, which was considered unclean. Hosts signaled the start of the meal by offering their guests perfumed water, typically rosewater, in a ewer and basin set, to clean their hands. The basin had a perforated removable cover. When the diners had feasted, servants sprinkled rosewater on the guests' hands, signaling the end of the meal. One of inventions the Arab world brought to the West was the use of the toothpick.

The cuisine of Islamic societies varied by region, but Moorish society refined food preparation to an art form. The only meat not consumed was pork for religious reasons; beef, poultry and lamb were common staples of the Moorish diet. Foods were spiced with saffron, aniseed, cardamom, honey, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin and sumac, to name a few. Harisa, called the "Mother of Strengthening" (pictured), was a popular dish made into a paste. Meat, ground wheat, chicken joints, cumin, and cinnamon were combined and cooked in an oven, sprinkled with lemon juice when ready. Tharid was a traditional dish of crumbled bread, meat and barley thickened in a broth. The only meat not consumed was pork for religious reasons; beef, poultry and lamb were common staples of the Moorish diet. Dishes that originated in the Moorish period are still a part of modern day Arabian cuisine.

08 January 2008

Daily Life: Shop Till You Drop

By Delia DeLeest

Making a quick trip to the grocery store is something we all do on a regular basis without much thought, but it wasn't that long ago when doing your weekly shopping was a bit more of a challenge.

Before Piggly Wiggly changed the way America shopped, a housewife made a trip to the dry goods store, the butcher, maybe a couple of fruit and vegetable vendors, among others before they had the food their families needed for the week. They would give their list to the person behind the counter, who would rush back and forth, filling their order. The new convenience foods of the twentieth century would change all that.

Piggly Wiggly opened in 1916 and became America's first true self-service grocery store. Customers were no longer at the mercy of less than ambitious store clerks or questionable products and weighing practices. Instead of waiting in line for their turn to have a clerk assist them, they could grab a basket, pick up everything they needed at their own pace, go through the new-fangled check-out lines and be back at home in no time.

In the past, the customer was at the mercy of the store owner. Dishonest practices such as adding chalk or other substances into flour, old milk or eggs and other types of food tampering were common. But with the development of Campbell's soup in 1897, Bird's Eye frozen foods in the 1920s, and various pre-packaged breakfast cereals during that same period, customers were assured of consistent quality and ease in preparation.

The time they saved in shopping and meal preparation, as well as other time-saving inventions like the vacuum cleaner and electric washing machines, gave the average women in the early 1900s free time known before to only the higher classes. In a roundabout way, these innovations brought about the emergence of such new activities as Mahjong and crossword puzzles.

A new, more efficient era had begun.

07 January 2008

Daily Life: A Snapshot of Vienna
(Or Research Under the Influence of Pink Rabbits)

By Jennifer Linforth

If there is one thing about daily life I am tyrannical about it is Strawberry Quik. I must have profuse amounts of the pink rabbit on hand, especially when my editor forwards revisions to me. So protective am I about that little yellow container of florescent pink powder my attitude would fit in perfectly with the Viennese of the 19th century. They too were a bit obsessive about aspects of daily life.

Much like today, ones says Austria and ones mind goes to Vienna. Daily life in the imperial city was as diverse as it was ordinary. Vienna under Franz-Josef was a unique portrait--one that even today is a bit curious.

The Viennese of the late 19th century rose early and retired on schedule (much like writers in the frozen wally wags of Maine.) Food was an art form taken very seriously. Any good restaurant had no less than thirty two varieties of boiled beef and equal amounts of dressing to go with it. Desserts--like the sugar crystals peddled by over active cartoon bunnies--boarded on obsessions for the Viennese.

Vienna had a sweet tooth. Milchrahmstrudel (cheese strudel with cream sauce), palaschinken (crepes), Kaiserschmarrn (broken-up crepes), the famous Sacher torte (a cake of chocolate and jam) made up many a cafe window. My favorite is the ever popular Gugelhupf. Its unique history I showed in this snippet from my Austrian historical romance Adelrune:

Rebecca hesitantly approached the pianoforte and laid a linen napkin on top of it. "I stole some Gugelhupf, I thought you would like it."

"Is that another of your jokes? Because it is one of the few I understand. Gugelhupf? The cake that gave its name for the Narrenturm? The fool's tower? The hospital for the insane? A crazy cake for a crazy woman?"

"No," Rebecca snipped. "I just thought it would be nice."

Adelrune plunked her arm against the keyboard. The pianoforte yipped in pain. "Forgive me for finding it hard to associate the word nice with you..."
(The Narrenturm was founded under Joseph I. Its odd round shape gave its name to the Gugelhupf. The sweet yeast cake is consumed during Jause, the 5 o'clock tea--which is actually coffee.)

The Viennese ate five times a day: a breakfast of coffee and rolls, a 'fork breakfast' at ten, the main midday meal of soup and rolls (crescent in shape to remind them of the defeat of the Turks), Jause at five and a supper at eight.

If they were not at home or at work, they were in the Kaffeehaus. And they were very specific about which ones caught their fancy. The amount of Kaffeehauses in Vienna in the late 19th century bordered on the amount of Starbucks you'd see in Seattle today. They were numerous and each catered to a different clientele. Bankers, artists, military men, jewelers and masons all had their haunts. It was a rendezvous point for lovers, a meeting place for business, and the spot to read one of Vienna's numerous political papers. And Vienna had many papers. The crown prince himself wrote political articles--under a pen name of course--often with articles contradicting his imperial father.

After reading in the Kaffeehouse the Viennese returned home and enjoyed a game of tarok. But come ten it was lights out… until it was the next day and time to be seen strolling the streets.

My next post, later this month: daily fashion and the jobs that made Vienna hum. Right now, I have scene to address my editor wants me to delete... which I am refusing to delete... which means it is war between us... which means I hear a rabbit calling my name...

06 January 2008

Sundial Winner

We have a winner for Carrie's "Sundial" giveaway: Dev! Contact Carrie by e-mail to give her your email address. Prize must be claimed by next Sunday or another winner will be drawn. Please stop back later to let us know what you thought of her first release. Congratulations!

Guest Blogger: Annie Burrows

It's Sunday, which means we're featuring another fantastic author of Unusual Historicals.

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Hi there! Carrie has given me this opportunity to introduce myself to you all today. My name is Annie Burrows, and I write historical romance for Mills & Boon.

Well, at least, I have had one novel published, and another is due to come out in February, but it is such a thrill to be able to describe myself as a writer after struggling to get anything accepted for years, that I tend to go a bit overboard! And I still get a real kick when I casually drop into a conversation, "My editor emailed me today..."

I have really enjoyed visiting this site since I discovered it, thanks to a recommendation from Michelle Styles. I love all things historical, and am constantly impressed by the depth of knowledge the various contributors to this blog display. In fact, you all know so much, you make me feel like a bit of a phony!

I studied English Literature at university, rather than history, but I have always felt the two were connected. In reading the literature of the past, I felt that I was learning how people felt about the times they lived in. Growing up in England, much of my holidays when I was a child, were spent in going round stately homes and castles with my family. On getting home, the first thing my sister and I used to do was invent stories about the places we had seen. If the weather was fine, we would romp round the back garden, being cavaliers and roundheads, or knights and ladies draped in costumes improvised from old sheets. If it was raining, we would go up to our room and draw plans of our ideal stately home, complete with dungeons, secret tunnels, and at least one maze in the grounds. I suppose becoming a writer of historical fiction is a continuation of those childhood imaginative games...

My next novel, which is called My Lady Innocent, is set in 1486. It is not easy to find stories set during this period, which seems a great shame to me. When Henry Tudor came to the throne, England had been in a state of civil war for generations. By the time of his death in 1509, he had virtually done away with the private armies maintained by the nobility, which had made their feuding possible, leaving his son in charge of a stable and prosperous kingdom. In one lifetime, he managed to turn around a whole way of life, ending what we think of as medieval England, and ushering in the Tudor period. And yet when people discuss the Tudors, they tend to focus on his son, Henry VIII! Even the recent HBO TV series called "The Tudors" plunged in half way through Henry VIII's reign, completely ignoring the founder of the dynasty.

I start my own story a few months after the Battle of Bosworth, while Henry is launching the various policies which eventually brought stability to his realm. My fictional hero is totally loyal to the king, whereas his bride comes from a staunchly Yorkist family. Their struggle to make their marriage work, against a background of treachery and suspicion, echoes King Henry's own attempt to inaugurate an era of forgiveness and reconciliation, by himself marrying the Yorkist Princess Elizabeth.

I had a fabulous time doing research for this book, persuading my husband that we needed to go round castles, especially when there was any kind of medieval re-enacting going on. We spent one memorable weekend scrambling round Skipton Castle, in Yorkshire, and even he was fascinated by the demonstration of medieval field surgery I dragged him to. I could tell, by the looks on the faces of the (other) little boys in the audience, that they wanted nothing more than to get hold of a mallet, a saw, and a sharp knife and have a go at sawing somebody's leg off, after having been told what a simple procedure amputation was! I also managed to have a go at firing a bow and arrow, and learned so much about how to weave patterns into ribbons, that I simply had to give my heroine her own ribbon weaving loom.

My Lady Innocent comes out in paperback in the UK in February and I will be holding a release party on this site on January 20th, when I will be offering a free copy to one lucky reader. I hope you will join me then!

Luv,
Annie Burrows