Thursday, June 24, 2021


Nineteen weeks? Nineteen months?  Nineteen years? How long did young men race across the West as Pony Express Riders?

What's your guess? The Pony Express is so much a part of my image of the West that I might have guessed nineteen years. What about you?

I would be wrong. Amazingly, the Pony Express lasted only nineteen months. With so much written about it or shown in movies I was sure it would have been longer than that.

A series of way stations that allowed for new horses made it possible for these men, mostly orphans, to deliver a letter from Missouri to California in only ten days. At least, that was the company's guarantee. One even did it in eight days.

Ad in the Sacramento Union, March 19, 1860

"Men Wanted"
The undersigned wishes to hire ten or a dozen men, familiar with the management of horses, as hostlers, or riders on the Overland Express Route via Salt Lake City. Wages $50 per month and found. (

Though the riders ran into dangers and not all survived, the Pony Express Company delivered on their promises and ran a successful business. Why did it fail in the end?

The telegraph. Even while riders raced across country, the young men saw wires and poles being strung along their way. Train tracks also stretched across the plains to the West Coast. That made it possible to deliver packages and such cheaper and with equal speed--or even faster.

After only a year and a half of business, the Pony Express could not meet the same speed of the telegraph. The message that took riders days to deliver could be sent in mere minutes. The Pony Express riders carried their last letter in 1862 (though the company official terminated in October, 1861).

Still, that didn't stop them from entering into the legend of the West...

Want to read about crossing the country? Pre-order my wagon-train romance today.

A cat, an accident, and a pile of mixed-up letters send a bride to a man she otherwise would never have met. Only time will tell if she and this new marriage can survive the match.

 Francine 'Francy' Dinsmore loses the security she's always known with the death of her father. Coincidentally, her father sent a letter to a matchmaker to give his daughter a home far from Chicago.  Life so far has treated Francy tenderly and expected very little from her.

Beau LeFevre abandons a hopeless future to venture west. He packs a wagon to head for Oregon. The only thing he needs before he leaves is a wife. When the elegant woman arrives from the matchmaker, he marries her wondering all the while what made the matchmaker send this bride to him.

How can he make a marriage work with this spoiled woman? Life on the trail leads him to believe someone made a mistake!

Or will this turn out to be a happy accident and a sound pairing with the only woman who can win his heart?

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Donuts & Ferris Wheels

 Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

Donuts and Ferris Wheels. Both are round and both are fun, but what do they have in common besides the obvious?

June 21, 1893, the Ferris wheel made its appearance at the Chicago Worlds Columbian Exposition. Although there had been other similar rides, it was Ferris whose name is the one we remember. It had been built to rival the Eiffel Tower, which had made its debut in 1889. 

Ferris Wheel - Chicago Exposition

But what does that have to do with donuts?

Well, the first Friday of June is National Donut Day a continuation of the Salvation Army's Donut Day to celebrate the volunteers who served donuts during WWI.

Additionally, it is said the first modern donut was invented in 1847 by a sixteen-year-old boy named Harrison Gregory aboard a lime trading ship. He then taught it to his mother. The story goes, he was tired of 'donuts' that were still uncooked in the middle. He punched the hole to keep that from happening.

Photo from

At the same time, 'donuts' have been around and have been spoken of in literature since the early nineteenth century. 

So who invented the 'Ferris' wheel or donuts for that matter? It is open to discussion. At the same time, not only do they have the month of June in common, but their history is also a bit of a circle you might say.

So the next time you eat a donut or ride a Ferris wheel, think about their beginnings for history is a never-ending joy to search out. Or you could just grab a donut or two and hop on a Ferris Wheel! 

Although Maria in the "Never Had a Chance" novella doesn't make donuts, she does use food to catch her man.


Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Author of the "Agate Gulch" novellas and 
the "Kiowa Wells" novels.
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

Post (c) Doris McCraw All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Summertime Eats from Yesteryear

Since it's hotter than Hades right now, I want to share some cool old-time summery recipes. (And one fiery one!) The salad recipes are from my mother's
Watkins Cook Book, published in 1936 by the J.R. Watkins Co. in Winona, Minnesota (price $1.00.) The other recipes come from The First Texas Cook Book, published in 1883 by women of the First Presbyterian Church of Houston, Texas.

Cherry Salad

Cherries, black or Royal Anne (red, similar to Rainier cherries)

Cream cheese

Nuts (I suggest pecans or walnuts chopped)

Lettuce, crisp


Select large black or Royal Anne cherries, wash, remove stones carefully, fill with cream cheese and nuts. Chill, serve on crisp lettuce with fruit salad dressing.


Fruit Juice Aspic

1 quart syrup from canned pineapple and canned white cherries
Juice of 3 oranges
Juice of 2 lemons
1 cup sugar
1 box gelatin (plain)
1 cup cold water
Boiling water (I assume 1 cup)
Any cut fruit

Dissolve gelatin in cold water, then in boiling water. Mix with fruit syrup and juice. Let mixture come to boil. Pour into mold. Any fruit may be [added to mold]

Creamy Salad Dressing (For Fruit Salads)

½ tsp. dry mustard
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. paprika
2 egg yolks & whites separated
¼ cup vinegar
¼ cup butter
1/3 cup whipped cream

 Add sifted dry ingredients to beaten egg yolks, add vinegar and butter. Cook in double boiler, stir until smooth and creamy. Remove from fire, when cool add stiffly beaten egg whites, beat over hot water. Chill. Before using, add whipped cream.

Stuffed Tomato Salad

Ripe tomatoes, chilled
Cooked sweetbreads or chicken
Celery, cut, crisp in ice water
½ cup blanched almonds
Mayonnaise dressing (amount unspecified)
Celery salt

Peel, cut off tops, scoop out center of tomatoes. Chill. Fill with blended mixture, serve on crisp lettuce.

Or use shredded cabbage, shredded pineapple, and diced cucumbers after placing in ice water and salt to crisp.

Now for the Texas recipes. They were not laid out like our modern ones, but I think you can get the gist of them.

Corn Fritters

Grate six ears of boiled corn, beat the yelks (yolks) of three eggs, and mix with the corn; add two even tablespoons of flour, season with pepper and salt, add the whites of three eggs beaten to a stiff froth. Fry in hot lard; serve upon a napkin laid on a flat dish. (Fancy!)

Saratoga Potatoes

Peel and slice on a slaw-cutter into cold water, wash thoroughly and drain, spread between the folds of a clean cloth, rub and pat dry. Fry a few at a time in boiling lard, salt as you take out.

Saratoga potatoes are often eaten cold. They can be prepared three or four hours before needed, and if kept in a warm place they will be crisp and nice. Can be used for garnishing game and steak.

Stuffed Eggs

Boil some eggs hard, remove the shells, and cut them in half lengthwise, take out the yelks, mash then fine and season with butter, pepper and salt, chop some cold boiled ham fine and mix with the yelks, fill the halved whites with this mixture and put them in a pan, set in the oven and brown slightly.

Filé Gumbo (Hot stuff!)

Brown a tablespoon of flour, put in a pot with quarter of a tablespoon of hot grease and two sliced onions, add to this a large slice of ham, also chicken, turkey or young veal cut up; fill the pot with boiling water and let the contents boil about two hours. A minute or two before serving add a pint of drained oyster liquor and 50 to 100 oysters, also a pod of red pepper. When ready to serve, after having poured the gumbo into a tureen, stir in in a spoonful of filé. Have rice cooked dry to serve with it.

*Filé powder is a seasoning made from the ground, dried leaves of the sassafras tree. It's an integral part of Creole cooking, and is used to thicken and flavor Gumbos and other Creole dishes.

If you think these recipes require a lot of work, you’re right. In the old days, women spent much more time preparing food than most of us do today.

If you have a favorite summer recipe you would like to share, I'd love to read it. Please post it in your comments.

Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and paranormal romantic suspense novels, all spiced with sensual romance. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and three very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged babies.

Amazon Author Page: (universal link)  

Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 

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Thursday, June 17, 2021


 By Jo-Ann Roberts

Cooking was much more complicated in the 1800s than it is in our modern world. Many people take for granted the conveniences that are in their kitchens. It is easy to feel superior when thinking about days gone by.


Nineteenth Century Western Kitchen

History shows us that in the past it took a lot of work and a lot of time to put a meal on the table. But if a modern-day family was transported back in time to a pioneer kitchen, they might be surprised to see some of the wonders that kitchens contained.

In my soon-to-be-release, Grace-Brides of New Hope Book Three, Grace Donegan is the baker at Caroline's Cafe in New Hope. Turning out pastries, pies, and desserts keeps her busy, especially working with some of the modern gadgets of the day.

Sugar and Sugar Snips

Sugar was brought to the grocer in cone shapes called "loaves".  The woman of the house or proprietor of an establishment would cut up the loaf using sugar nippers to break the hard substance into smaller, usable parts for the table. The loaf was such a common sight until the later 19th century that everyone knew what it looked like. Even the paper it was wrapped in played a part in domestic life. Loaves from the Americas were wrapped in blue indigo paper which was recycled as a source of dye for yarn or cloth.


Sugar Snips

Sugar Loaf

The nips were tongs with a flat surface at the end suitable for lifting pieces of sugar. But they were also sturdy and tough. Nips used for cutting sugar were often made from steel. However,  decorative tongs for table use by wealthy families were often made from silver with elaborate engravings matching the family's silver service.

When powdered sugar was called for in a recipe, the cook had to use a mortar and pestle. Some sugar boxes had compartments for powdered sugar as well as lumps. Tongs, boxes, and casters (sugar sprinklers) were fashioned in silver for the wealthy, but there were many wooden sugar boxes, too.

Silver Sugar Box

Wooden Sugar Box

Rotary Egg Beater

Invented by tinner Ralph Collier of Baltimore, in partnership with A.S. Reip, a tin and iron war manufacturer, the first U.S. patent for a rotary egg-beater was submitted in 1856. But at that time it wasn't yet clear what the best design for the job would be. This patent describes how useful the new invention would be for hotels and restaurants as well as for ordinary households hoping to speed up a "laborious and fatiguing operation".

Rotary beaters with a handle worked best, but they came in different forms. Some early ones were fixed inside a pot, and couldn't be used with the cook's choice of mixing bowl. Some were developed by the same inventors who designed small hand-cranked butter churns.


Egg beater in a bowl

However, in 1873 the Dover egg beater emerged on the scene and even the most skeptical of cooks was quite taken with it. This invention did pave the path for easier cooking.

"The Dover egg-beater saves much time and trouble in beating eggs and will bend the yolks into as stiff a froth as the whites."  The Northeastern Reporter, 1879.

Dover Egg Beater

In the early 1870s, the cost of an egg beater could run a family $1.50. Less than ten years later the Dover could be purchased for $1.25. As time went on and egg beaters became more common, the price came down and by 1912 a housewife could pick one up for $.05!!



Scottish in origin, the first documentation of use in cooking was noted in 1528. The word, spartle was a Northern English word meaning "stirrer".  In the Germanic languages. a spurtle refers to a flat-bladed tool or utensil.


Made from the straightest tree branch which could be found, the utensil was peeled and used for flipping oatcakes on a griddle, and not for porridge, stews, or soups which is common today. Traditional Scottish spurtles have a thistle end, in homage to the national emblem of Scotland, whereas contemporary spurtles have a smooth tapered end. There are some tall tales about the spurtle which is not surprising given that it is in the shape of a magic wand. The most famous of the customs is when using a spurtle you must always stir clockwise and always with your right hand..."Lest you invoke the devil".

I first came across a spurtle when I was doing research for Lessie-Brides of New Hope Book One. Eli MacKenzie, the MMC (male main character), presents Lessie with several gifts following their wedding, one of which is a spurtle. Bearing a Scottish heritage, this fits in perfectly with his backstory.  Here's a brief excerpt:

He placed his hands on her waist after setting the gift in front of her.

“Eli, you’ve already given me so much. I really don’t need anything more.” Lessie brushed away a tear that remained. After she untied the strip of rawhide, the burlap fell away to reveal a long-handled wooden stick, resembling a spoon, that flared out at the bottom. Something similar to a cornstalk was carved at the narrowed top. “Thank you, Eli.” She tilted her head and inquired, “Is this your way of asking me to cook something for you?”

He ran his hand down the stick. “This is called a spurtle. In Scottish families, it is a traditional gift given to the bride with the hope that it will bring her good luck cooking for her new husband.” He indicated the top portion. “Burt Davis made it in his shop and carved a thistle on the top. The thistle is the national emblem of Scotland. In many ways, it reminds me of you.”

Lessie arched an eyebrow. “That’s not a particularly flattering comparison, Eli. I am not prickly.”

Eli chuckled. “That isn’t my interpretation at all. I see you as a thistle because, like that bloom, you symbolize bravery and courage in the face of adversity. And those spiky painful thorns suggest endurance and fortitude. I don’t know a single woman who would have carved out a life for herself after enduring a bloody war, traveled to an unknown town with nothing but a scrap of paper from a stranger who disappeared after marrying her, with a baby and a few trinkets wrapped in a quilt. Nor do I know of any woman who had the foresight to chart her own path as a midwife and transform a neglected farm into a place to be proud of.”

Sieves and Strainers

The word "sift" is derived from "sieve".  In cooking terms, a sieve or sifter is used to separate and break up flour and dry goods, as well as to aerate and combine them. A ladle with draining holes or a strainer is a form of a sieve used to separate suspended solids from a liquid...think an egg separator.  

Early wooden sieves used tin or horsehair for the sieving. The widths of a wooden sieve were made from fir or willow, American elm being the best choice. The rims would be made of fir, oak, or beech.


Miscellaneous Gadgets


Cake Separator


This tool was widely used for cutting angel food cakes and other soft cakes, as the delicate tines wouldn’t crush or compress the cake under pressure. Cake breakers were so popular that you could even find one in your silver pattern.

Herb Cutter

Herb cutters came in different styles than this one. For example, some herb cutters had a handle on both sides of the blade for each hand.

Herb Cutter


Coffee Grinder


By the mid-1800s, various coffee grinders were present in almost every home. Most grinders had a grinding handle on the top of a box that was set inside a bowl-shaped holder of roasted coffee beans. The bottom of the box had a drawer that held the coffee beans after being ground.


While most pioneer cooks had all they could do to put three meals a day on the table, some

cooks experimented with tin molds. In Mrs. Beaton's Book of Household Management (1861) recipes for jellied delights and other molded foods meant that many people aspired to have devices with which to make ordinary dishes extraordinary. Cooks back then would have also had several pitting, chopping, and peeling tools available since they had to process all their foods by hand.



July 7th Release

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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Review of Kristin Hannah's The Four Winds by Bea Tifton

The Dust Bowl was one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit the Great Plains. Farmers had plowed the topsoil of the Great Plains and plowed up the grasses that trapped soil and moisture.  When terrible droughts plagued the Great Plains, the soil became dust and blew across the Plains as dust storms, or “black blizzards.”  Many people were forced to leave their homes and travel west, where they were treated as an unwelcome pestilence by many of the locals and exploited by the landowners as cheap labor.  Fortunately, the government finally convinced farmers in the Great Plains to use new farming techniques that did not strip the land bare, but many of the Dust Bowl refugees were never able to return to their previous farms.

Kristin Hannah’s new book, The Four Winds, offers a glimpse into the lives of one Texas family as they struggle to remain alive during the Dust Bowl.

In the 1930s, Elsa is unloved and unappreciated by her family. When she meets sweet talking Rafe Martinelli, she welcomes the affection he gives her. As the encounter results in a pregnancy, Elsa’s father deposits her on the Martinelli family’s doorstep.  After a shotgun marriage, the Martinellis grow to love Elsa and she finds the family she always wanted. The Dust Bowl hits her family farm hard in 1934, and Elsa must do whatever she can for her two children as they are forced to migrate to California to find some way of making a living. Elsa finds a strength she never knew she possessed.

Kristin Hannah has written another excellent book. I was captivated by Elsa and her struggles immediately. As her character grows and adapts, I was stuck by Elsa’s resilience. All of the characters are well constructed. The imagery and the story telling are top notch and it was fascinating to read a book about the Dust Bowl partially set in Texas.  Hannah’s book is well researched and the time period is well depicted. The way the Dust Bowl refugees are treated is brutally realistic. The book was heart breaking and heartwarming. I love reading about strong women, and the women in the book are all fierce survivors. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical novels.