Since I just finished some revisions on the first story in my western historical romance series, it made me think about the early cattle ranchers in Colorado. I decided to see what the house of an early cattle baron might look like. Plus, what would would I hear if those walls could talk to me?
Alonzo Hartman was one of the earliest cattle ranchers in southwestern Colorado. He was a very young man when he arrived in Colorado. In fact, he was only about 18 years old and knew little about cattle when he was put in charge of the Los Pinos Indian Agency cow camp in 1869. This camp was a holding place for cattle driven up from Texas to feed the Ute Indians on a nearby reservation. When the Utes were moved to another location a few years later, Alonzo and his partner decided to stay on the cow camp land. They started a community (Gunnison) as well as a ranch which became one of the biggest in western Colorado. While Alonzo also diversified into other businesses in later years, he was first and foremost a rancher.
The included pictures are of the large house he built for his wife, Annie, after he became successful. The house was completed in 1894, when he was still a relatively young man in his 40s. The house was so large and ornate, it became known as the "Hartman Castle."
I find this house intriguing for several reasons. First, because it is the ultimate proof of a what a young, inexperienced person can accomplish with some cleverness and hard work. Secondly, because it must have hosted some interesting people over the years. Can you imagine the dinner parties Annie and Alonzo might have hosted over the years, and the influential guests who might have attended? While the house passed out of the Hartman’s hands in the early 1900s, it still exists today. How was it used, and who might have passed through its doors in the intervening years?
I will never know the house’s full story, but that is okay. Not knowing allows me to make up my own stories about what this house might say, If These Walls Could Talk.
Does anyone else remember making paper snowflakes as a child? Something – perhaps a Christmas movie I watched last night – made me think about them. Since I couldn’t remember exactly how to do it, I looked up some directions and decided to share them with all of you.
Have fun making paper snowflakes, perhaps with your children or grandchildren, to decorate your home. Merry Christmas!
Most of us are extremely familiar with the jolly, white-bearded man in a red suit. But where did he come from? I decided to combine history and Christmas this week, and explored that question.
Most historians agree that the original Santa was a monk, Nicholas, who was born around 280 A.D. in what is now the country of Turkey. He was revered for his kindness and generosity, and was made a saint (Saint Nicholas) by the church. Saint Nicholas was also known as a protector of children and sailors, and was the most popular saint in Europe. His feast day is on December 6th, the day of his death, which is why some people have a tradition of providing small gifts on that day.
Now fast forward hundreds of years. Dutch settlers arriving in the mid-to-late 1700s in what is now New York City brought their traditions for Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas) with them. Over time, this name was shortened to Sinter Klaas, which then over more time became Santa Claus.
The first known picture of St. Nicholas in the U.S. was a woodcut done in New York in 1804. In earlier years, there was not one set description of his appearance. His appearance – as well as specific holiday customs – varied based on a person’s country of origin.
Our current image of him started in 1822 when Clement Clarke Moore wrote a Christmas poem. Since he was an Episcopal minister, he almost didn’t publish such a frivolous piece. But he eventually did, and it became “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” This poem established Santa as a heavyset “right jolly old elf” who traveled in a flying sleigh pulled by reindeer and came down chimneys.
Then, in 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast created a drawing of Santa – inspired by the poem – which appeared in Harper’s Weekly. He was the first to show Santa with a white beard, wearing a red suit trimmed with white fur, and holding a sack full of toys. Oh, and Nast was also the first to depict elves and a Mrs. Claus in his drawings.
The Christmas holiday saw an upsurge of popularity in the early 1800s and Santa likewise became more popular. Stores started promoting Christmas shopping as early as 1820. Newspapers started including holiday advertisements in the 1840s, and often used images of Santa. The first life-size (though not live) Santa display was in a Philadelphia store in 1841. It was a huge success. Thousands of children (and their shopping parents) came to see him. It didn’t take long for stores to start hiring live Santas.
Speaking of live Santas, the Salvation Army first began using Santas as bell ringers in the early 1890s. They were short of funds to provide Christmas meals for poor families, so the Salvation Army paid unemployed men in New York City to dress up as Santa and ask for donations. The idea spread and evolved, which is why we now see Salvation Army volunteers ringing bells next to their kettles every holiday season.
So there you go. A brief summary of why Santa Claus is such an integral part of Christmas now. There are so many additional fascinating bits of Santa trivia I could have included (did you know in Canada he has his own postal code?) but I had to end this somewhere. I hope you enjoyed this fun trip back into history. And I hope you enjoy the coming days of the holiday season. For me, it’s time to wrap some presents and bake some cookies.
I had every intention of getting my blog out yesterday, and then I started looking for a particular photo to use with my blog, and ended up going down a rabbit hole looking at photos. It wasn’t a waste of time, as it was something I planned to do in the next couple weeks anyway, but it did take longer than I expected. The “rabbit hole” and my blog are somewhat related, since they both pertain to Christmas.
Now that Thanksgiving is over, I am ready to start preparing for Christmas. If looking at the calendar wasn’t enough to get me going, reading the letter my three-year-old granddaughter wrote (well, dictated) to Santa will do the trick. It was sweet of her to include a request from her little sister in her letter. And based on the number of lines on her capital “E” when she signed her name, she is pretty excited about the big guy. Take a look at the attached picture, and you’ll see what I mean. She is totally getting into Christmas this year.
Thinking about my granddaughters and Christmas was indirectly responsible for the delay looking at photos yesterday. It has been quite a while since I gathered photos of the girls to share with my mom, and I want to make sure I have some ready before Christmas. We are going back to Wisconsin for the holiday, so I will take some printed pictures to give her. Since the internet service in her rural area is abysmal, my mom has given up on using her computer for email or online, which means she needs to get pictures the old-fashioned way.
I am looking forward to the trip back to Wisconsin. Yesterday, I booked a house for all six of us to stay in while we are up there. The price was quite reasonable, and we all prefer a house to a hotel. There is more room for us to spread out, and we can prepare most of our meals at the house, which is much easier than going to a restaurant for all of our meals – especially with small children. Best of all, the lady who owns the rental house has graciously agreed to bring over some Christmas decorations and a small tree for us. I am very grateful, because it just wouldn’t be Christmas for our granddaughters without at least a tree.
Now that the trip planning is under control, I need to get back to some of the other holiday tasks which need to be done in the next two weeks. Two weeks! Yikes! I am not done with my shopping, and haven’t started making cookies yet. I suspect most of you understand the slightly anxious feeling I have right now.
But, I know that everything that needs to get done will get done. And the tasks are not as important as enjoying the holiday with my loved ones. I hope all of you will also find time to relax with friends and family during the holiday season. (And maybe some relaxing moments to sip some hot cocoa and listen to holiday music by yourself.) Hopefully, we’ll all remember that the holiday season isn’t about frantically scrambling to produce a “perfect” event. It’s about the love and joy and blessings wrapped up in that miraculous Christmas birth. So, enjoy the coming weeks. And Merry Christmas.
Happy Thanksgiving. In spite of the ups and downs this past year, I know I have many things for which to be thankful. Unlike many people in this world, I have a comfortable house with a sturdy roof over my head, my family is (generally) healthy, and we have plenty of food to eat. Thank you to the Creator who provides us with so many blessings.
Pie is one of my favorite blessings this time of year. I just finished making a Chocolate Truffle Pie to take along for Thanksgiving tomorrow. This pie became part of our Thanksgiving tradition after I first made it many years ago. My son loves it (as do others who try it.) In fact, I still remember an incident when my son was home for Thanksgiving several years ago. I had made this pie in a glass pie dish, and he reached into the fridge to pull out the remaining pie later in the evening. His hand somehow slipped, and the pie dish landed on the floor. I thought he was going to cry when he saw all of the rich chocolate goodness mingled with glass shards on the floor! (Needless to say, I made him another pie.)
So, in honor of my son, and in honor of the other family members who are now too far away to enjoy the pie with us this year, I thought I would share the pie recipe with all of you. It is fairly simple to make, and well worth the effort. Enjoy!
Chocolate Truffle Pie
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 ½ cups whipping cream, divided
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 chocolate cookie crust
Optional: whipped cream and chocolate-covered peppermint candies or nonpareils for garnish
Do you ever wonder if the candy you pass out on Halloween is a popular treat or a dismal trick? Since today is Halloween, I thought it would be fun to see what candy we are all buying to pass out this year.
The first surprising thing I learned is that there are several versions of the map, each with different results. I chose to use one from CandyStore.com, in part because they included a list by state below the graphic, in case you are from one of the tinier states and can’t see it too well on the map. Also, they have been tracking candy sales for twelve years, so I think that makes them a bit of an expert.
According to the map, Skittles (my favorite!) is the most popular candy in the US, followed by two more goodies, Reese’s Cups and M&Ms. In Iowa, the center of corn production, they not-surprisingly picked candy corn as their favorite candy. Regardless of the type, Americans will spend a total of approximately 2.6 Billion – with a “B” – dollars on Halloween candy this year. That’s a lot of candy!
And that’s enough stats about candy. Without further ado (or so you know what to rush out and buy before the trick-or-treaters arrive), here is the map of most popular Halloween candy by state.
Book releases are an exciting time, from what I have observed. Exciting, but not easy. (I am hoping to experience a book launch with one of my historical romances someday, but until then, I’ll base this on watching other writers.)
A good friend just had her latest book released last Friday. This isn’t her first book, but that doesn’t seem to make the process any easier. What with asking people for reviews, and doing blog tours, and anything other promotion which might help, it doesn’t seem to be for the faint of heart.
But I suspect most authors don’t mind doing at least some of this work, even though authors are required to do more of their own promotion now than ever before. After all, the alternative is to never publish a book. And I think most writers live for the day they can share their creation with other people.
This makes me think about a conversation I had with a friend recently about opportunities for writers. On one hand, with the proliferation of books available now, whether traditionally or self-pubbed, it is much harder to make one book out of thousands get noticed. And as I said earlier, much of this work to get a book noticed falls on the author now. This is why, in some ways, I personally think it may have been easier to be a successful writer 20 or 30 years ago.
But on the other hand, there are “publishing” opportunities now which no one dreamed of years ago. For example, there are many digital platforms online for sharing creative works, audio books are increasingly popular, and the many viewing options on TV now have led to increased demand for stories which can be turned into a new movie or series. Perhaps it all balances out.
Regardless of the format, though, I don’t think authors will ever lose the thrill they feel when they sell a story they sweated over. Writing a good story takes months of hard work, and I can only imagine the satisfaction gained by having that hard work recognized by others.
So, congratulations to my friend and all of the other authors working hard to have their stories noticed. Well done!
My husband and I finally put up some decorations for Halloween today. We didn’t do much in our rental house last year, so this year we decided to put in a little more effort.
But first, we had to get some decorations. We didn’t have much to begin with, and left most of it in Wisconsin when we moved last year. So the other day, I was in a hobby store looking at their choices and trying to decide what to get. It was harder than you might think. My granddaughters are only 1 and 3 years old, so while I wanted something fun, I didn’t want anything too scary. I don’t want to be responsible for traumatizing my own granddaughters!
We settled on a few friendly-looking ghosts and a scarecrow. My husband also got a string of pumpkin lights, but we are hoping the store might have another string to purchase. One just doesn’t look like enough. However, as I write this, I am realizing one thing we are still missing. Real pumpkins! Is it even officially Halloween if we don’t have a jack-o-lantern? We better get a few, just to be on the safe side.
Though after reading an online article this morning, I am glad we didn’t purchase any fake spider webs. I learned that each October, there is an increase in birds with damaged wings or claws after getting tangled in the fake webs people use to decorate their front lawns. Small animals such as chipmunks can also get caught in them if the webs are low to the ground. Even deer can get their antlers tangles in webs, light strings, etc., so given the number of deer in our neighborhood, I am glad our one string of pumpkin lights is up high near the edge of the porch roof.
I guess we have a couple weeks to complete our decorating. Our granddaughters are coming over this weekend, so they may have some input for us. Though, if the 3-year-old tells us we should have some skunks (she recently decided they are her favorite animals, after petting some baby skunks at a wildlife exhibit) I will definitely have to draw the line. No skunks -- that would traumatize me!
Have fun with your own Halloween decorating. And don’t forget to buy candy for the little trick-or-treaters. Our neighbor warned us he usually gets two big bags of candy (though he did admit some of it is for him.) Happy Halloween, and if you have any ideas for appropriate decorations for small children, I’d like to hear them.
In the course of writing my current novel, which takes place shortly after the start of Prohibition, I came across some fun and surprising facts about that time period. (The 18th Amendment took effect on January 1, 1920 and was repealed in 1933.)
Below are ten pieces of Prohibition trivia you can use to astound and amaze your friends:
I am taking a departure from talking about writing romances or my personal life this week. The last few days haven’t been a lot of fun (dealing with insurance, and I think my computer is about to die) so I decided this week’s blog should make up for that.
Have you ever heard of Fat Bear Week? I hadn’t either. But as I just learned, Katmai National Park in Alaska runs an annual online contest every October for people to vote on their favorite fat brown bear. This time of year, the brown bears in Alaska are shoveling in food and bulking up to prepare for up to six months of hibernation. They eat up to 90 pounds of food a day, and end up with huge bellies full of fat which they’ll live while in their dens over the long winter. (This is one instance when being the fattest is a good thing, because it indicates good health – for a bear – and a better chance of survival.)
The contest started yesterday, and the first round of eliminations is nearly complete, so get your votes in now!
Here is a link to a press release from the National Park Service with more information:
And here is a link to the voting on Facebook:
If you want to choose based on more than just a name, you can even watch the parks bear cams to help you decide. The winner of “Fattest Bear 2019” will be announced on Tuesday, October 8th.
I freely admit this is a bit of a departure from my more typical blog topics, but I will also freely admit that for those of us who have had a long week, this might be just the sort of fun diversion we need, at least for a few minutes. So get your vote in. Somewhere in Alaska, a brown bear is waiting to be crowned.
I write historical romances, and I invite you to share the journey to published author with me.