Pat Wahler

Penning stories to savor.

A Short Book Review and a Thank You to Subscribers

As summer creeps toward fall, I can’t help but get excited. With apologies to those who mourn the end of swimming weather, I’ve been dying to drag out my comfy sweatshirts and deliciously decadent elastic waistband pants. You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re soft and forgiving and don’t pass judgment on me the way snobby slacks with zippers and buttons do.

Another reason to love fall is I tend to read more because there are so many new releases – all in time for the holiday season. My most recent read is THE OTHER EINSTEIN by  Marie Benedict. From Benedict’s well-researched novel, I soon learned Mr. Einstein may have had an amazing intellect, but his treatment of the people closest to him wasn’t exactly stellar.

Poor Mrs. Einstein

According to the novel, he minimized the contributions of fiancee and physicist Mileva Maric to his ground-breaking work, basically stringing her along for years before he agreed to marry her. The life between them wasn’t exactly rosy and I couldn’t help but feel bad for Mileva. Did you ever imagine the wild-haired smiling images we’ve seen of Albert Einstein hid a rather self-absorbed womanizer? Guess you’ll have to read the novel to find out all the fascinating details. I know I’ll never look at him the same way again. This, my friends, is one of the many reasons I love historical fiction – learning things that weren’t taught in any of my history classes.

This photo recently sold for $125,000 at auction. What a guy. (via Getty images)

Now on to more important items.

Subscribers, you are fabulous. As a way to express my gratitude, I plan to periodically run some fun contests exclusively for subscribers. Today I’m launching the first one. So…drum roll please…I’m sponsoring the chance for subscribers to win a $25 Amazon e-gift card – a great way to get started with your holiday shopping.

If you aren’t a subscriber yet, no worries. Just sign up on the top right sidebar under “Become a Subscriber” by entering your email address. You’ll receive notification of new blog posts so you won’t miss future giveaways or exclusive news via email – but never more than twice per month.

A winner will be randomly selected from my list of current subscribers in four weeks, on October 25, 2017. Simple! Since the gift card will be delivered via email, all subscribers are eligible, regardless of geographic location. All that’s necessary is a valid email address.

Once again, thanks to my loyal subscribers. Good luck to each one of you!

 

 

 

 

 

Got Fall Projects?

It’s true. Fall cleaning really is a “thing”.

I used to believe only in spring did I need to feel guilted into doing the stuff I avoid while trying to make the house look less like a pig-sty (apologies to pigs) while not quite taking it to the level of say, waiting for a photographer from Better Homes and Gardens. Now I’ve discovered that one is expected to do fall cleaning, too, in order to prepare the outside for frigid temperatures and the inside for the imminent cold and flu season. Sigh.

No rest for the weary. (Amazon)

The drudgery of housework is a task that throughout history has fallen on the shoulders of women. In the past, ladies (if they were fortunate, assisted by a maid or two) would shoo away the menfolk and empty the house during spring cleaning to scrub nooks and corners, beat the dust out of rugs, and wash soot and grime (heating and cooking with wood and coal was messy) from the walls.

In keeping with tradition, when I clean, my own hubby does what the man of the house has done for centuries. He leaves. This is probably for the best. Otherwise, I’d be dealing with remarks such as “Where does this go?” “What time is lunch?” And horrifically, “I’m going to adjust the motor on the vacuum cleaner to see if it’ll suck up the bucket of water I spilled.”

I’m a list maker, probably because it’s so visually satisfying to cross items off as I complete them. A list requires only two things: paper and pencil. But if you want to get fancy and pick up a few fall cleaning suggestions in the bargain, there are plenty of templates on line. Click HERE for great ideas plus free templates from the Organized Home.

You may have guessed I’m not a huge fan of cleaning, which in my opinion is a lot like trying to string beads when there isn’t any knot on the end. No matter how hard you’ve worked, within five minutes it will look like you haven’t touched a thing. That’s why I often choose to read a book instead. It’s so much more satisfying.

The perfect title for a non-perfectionist. (Pixabay)

But just in case you wonder, yes I do clean my house. A while back, I had someone come in to clean for me (delight of delights). Here’s what I learned from the experience:

1. Hiring cleaning help is an expensive luxury.

2. There is no reason whatsoever to clean weekly. Every other week works perfectly well.

Fall cleaning aside, there’s a list I don’t fail to study as it’s more important than simple household chores. The transition to fall and winter is the perfect time to check your home for safety issues. Click HERE to find several comprehensive lists (including free templates!) from Home Safety Smarkcheck.

Trust me, Hubby will not be shooed out of the house after I print out those lists.

Here’s the list, dear. (Pixabay)

I hope you’ve found some insights for all your fall projects. My own list has grown. Guess I’d better put down my book and get to work.

P.S. What’s for dinner? Check out the Easy-Peasy Recipe tab. A new recipe has been posted, courtesy of talented writer friend, Marcia Gaye. Visit her Facebook page HERE.

Let’s Celebrate!

I’m convinced that we Americans have a love affair with celebration. Just a few days ago, we made a party out of viewing a total solar eclipse. Some peered through their flimsy cardboard glasses (looking like the audience at a 3-D movie) from the comfort of their own back yards, raising a toast to the sky. Others joined dozens or even hundreds of strangers in group events, many of which included music, drinks, and food.

It got me to thinking about our obsession with turning just about anything into a holiday. In the process of scouring the internet to satisfy my curiosity, I stumbled across every party-giver’s (and party-goer’s) dream. A site which provides multiple reasons to celebrate. Every. Single. Day.

Think about it. Never again will you be devastated over missing National Two Colored Shoes Day.

I admit to doing this more than once, although not on purpose.

Your heart will not be broken over letting National Leave the Office Early Day slip by unnoticed.

Crickets.

You can even rest assured you’ll not miss out on one single moment of National Wiggle Your Toes Day.

The antidote to National Two Different Colored Shoes Day.

So with no further ado, here it is. The place which will forever change your ability to party at the drop of a hat (especially if you enjoy National Drop Your Hat Day). Click HERE to access the National Day Calendar. As a bonus, the site even provides a meme for the chosen celebration, and a little history on the reason behind establishing it. This will enable you to sound wise as Solomon any time you discuss National Cream Filled Doughnut Day.

Now I’m off to begin my own celebration with a sweet treat. Didn’t you know August 23 is National Sponge Cake Day?

Yum!

 

 

 

 

The Celestial Show

There’s nothing like August for celestial events.  It brings us the annual Perseid meteor shower, which peaks in my area August 12-13. Viewing the fun requires staying up past midnight, and is best enjoyed in an area where no “light pollution” dilutes the darkness. But seeing meteors whiz through the sky is worth it.

Perseid meteor August, 2016 in West Virginia. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

As a matter of fact, many days there are interesting things happening above our heads. Keeping track of it all isn’t easy. Luckily, NASA has a Sky Events Calendar that can give you the information you need for what’s happening. Click HERE for the link to the sky show in your area.

Speaking of a show, you may have heard a word or two about the Big Kahuna event of the summer – a total solar eclipse. We haven’t had a contiguous solar eclipse in the United States since 1979 (I remember using the nail hole in a shoe box method to view it) but one is coming on August 21. People are flocking to places where the eclipse will last the longest, and one of those places is my home town. Nothing like fun in your own back yard for watching a major event, right?

But hey, don’t forget those solar glasses. I worried a bit about the flimsy-looking cardboard devices I’ve seen. After all, I don’t want my eyesballs fried like a couple of eggs in a pan. So what’s a person to do?

Make sure your glasses are NASA approved! (Carbondale Tourism photo)

Well, for one thing, make sure your glasses are NASA approved. Click HERE for a list of solar glasses that will keep your vision intact. Oh, and don’t forget, if you want to take pictures of the eclipse, additional safety precautions are also required for your camera or the lens will cook.

I know. There’s so much to remember. For a nice concise roundup of dates, times, places, and procedures, NASA has set up a solar eclipse site to answer all your questions. Click HERE to learn from the professionals how to safely enjoy this sure-to-be-amazing experience.

In my digging for solar eclipse information, I ran across an interesting image (and story). On July 28, 1851, Johann F. Berkowski became the first person to successfully photograph a solar eclipse. Berkowski, considered one of Prussia’s most skilled daguerreotypists, was commissioned by the Royal Prussian Observatory. He captured an image of the sun by attaching a telescope to a heliometer, and making an eighty-four second exposure. His exacting efforts (no second chances when making a daguerreotype of a total solar eclipse) got him an amazing shot, and a place in history.

July, 1851-Pretty cool, huh? (J. Berkowski/Wikipedia Commons)

No matter your plans for the upcoming eclipse, I’m sure it will be an event to remember. I’ve even heard animal behavior could be affected by the “black-out”. Personally, I plan to keep an eagle eye on my critters. If they act any weirder than they normally do, I’ll let you know.

A final note: There’s a new recipe posted, courtesy of friend and fellow-writer, Lynn Obermoeller. You’ll have plenty of time to prepare for the Big Kahuna Event and still eat well with an easy-peasy plate of Crock Pot Chicken.

Books, Books, Books

Its summertime, and people are scrabbling to find the perfect book to read while on vacation. If you choose books the way I do, this isn’t an easy process. I’ve got to look at the cover, review the blurb on the back, and read the first page. Something has to grab me, or its back on the shelf and I pull out the next one.

My tastes are pretty eclectic. Historical fiction, romantic comedy, and biography usually top the list for me. If any of these appeal to you, you’re in luck. I’m going to share some of my favorites from over the last few months. Favorites as in they kept me up late at night. Maybe you’ll find your perfect summer (or fall, or winter) read among them.

Are you in the mood for a book that makes you smile? On Second Thought, by Kristan Higgins will fit the bill nicely. Two sisters tell their stories in alternating chapters. One sister is ever-hopeful her long time wedding-reluctant boyfriend will finally pop the question. She envies her sister who’s already married the “perfect” man. But after the perfect man dies in a freak accident, secrets are bound to be uncovered. You might wonder how Ms. Higgins can add humor to such a story line. Don’t fret, she delivers. In fact, this book hooked me so thoroughly, I’ve read six of her other books.

Have you ever been curious about the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda? If so, I suggest reading Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. As a young girl, Zelda marries Scott and the two soon become the golden couple of the Jazz Age – until they’re each forced to confront their own demons. I devoured this book because I love imagining the stories wives could tell about their famous husbands. It feels a little bit like reading a diary. 🙂

The last book I’ll mention today is the one I’m currently reading and loving enough to have contracted a bad case of insomnia over it. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn has destroyed my normal bedtime routine because I keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. It’s a split story – half of it takes place in 1947 and the other half in 1915, featuring the tales of two very different women that intertwine in an unforgettable way. I don’t know the ending yet, but if its like the rest of the book – well, I suggest you read it for yourself and find out.

I share more of my favorite books on Goodreads. If you’re on Goodreads too, I’d love it if we can connect. Click here to find me.

BREAKING NEWS: Maybe you noticed I’ve tweaked my website pages. Please check them out and let me know what you think. I’m especially excited about my Easy-Peasy Recipes for Reluctant Cooks (like me). I’ll be adding to this page on a regular basis and hope you enjoy trying out something yummy that doesn’t require hours (or even very many minutes) of slaving in the kitchen. I’d rather be reading, wouldn’t you?

By the way, if you have an easy-peasy recipe you’d like to share, feel free to send it via my Contact Me page and I can add your contribution to the collection.

I’m also planning some cool giveaways in the near future for subscribers, so please sign up if you haven’t already done so (the form is located on the sidebar). I don’t want you to miss out on the fun.

Until next time, happy reading!

A Six-Scoop Summer

Bears may hibernate during the winter, but I hibernate when the temperature (or heat index) climbs into triple digits.  Lately, my air-conditioned house has been my sanctuary since we’re deep in the heavy, mucky air of summer.  I’m grateful to close the blinds, turn off lights, and sit in front of my computer, pretending its not 100 degrees outside. This situation lends itself to all sorts of woolgathering.

When I’m not dreaming about the crisp cool air of fall, I find myself hunting useless pieces of trivia. For example, what’s the hottest day on record?

Turns out that “honor” goes to Furnace Creek in California’s Death Valley. (The names alone are enough to make me sweat.) On July 10, 1913, Furnace Creek heated up to 134 degrees. But I’m sure it was a dry heat, so no worries. Furnace Creek isn’t a stranger to fiery temperatures, so the area is closed to visitors during the hottest times of the year. Heat lovers rejoice! There is a nearby golf course that holds an annual tournament called the Heatstroke Open. I won’t be attending.

Furnace Creek, circa 1871. Looks delightful, right? (U.S. National Archives & Records Administration)

The old picture I found of Furnace Creek led me to think about how people handled extreme heat in the past. No air-conditioner or even an electric fan. The men wore long sleeves, long pants, and boots. And the women, well, in my opinion, the women had it worst of all. Layers of clothing, dresses that hung to the floor, and on a Saturday-night-out, a lady would add a corset. Then there’s the fun of standing over a fire to cook while your face turns the color of a ripe tomato.

About the best way they had to cope (short of a vacation to a cooler climate) would be to build the homestead in shade trees with a porch for sitting and sleeping. Someone might even sneak to the pond for a swim when no one was looking, and a paper fan would help to swish the hot air around if there wasn’t a breeze.

When you consider remedies like that, I really shouldn’t whine about the heat.  In today’s world, I’ve got it pretty darn good wearing my shorts and sitting near the A/C vent.  The entire summer-thing looks even better when you consider the other frosty and delicious way I keep cool.

This is definitely a six-scoop summer.

How about you? Are you hibernating too?

 

 

Why Am I Already Covering My Ears?

It’s true I’ve gotten older, slightly neurotic, and more than a little cranky, but in my opinion, some Fourth of July festivities have gotten out of control.  Count me in for parties and eating and watching parades, but other things are better observed from afar. Loud explosions and fiery particles landing on trees, grass, and rooftops do not fill me with joy.

Unfortunately, many of my neighbors don’t share this opinion. Fireworks have been exploding for several days now, and if history is any indication, the hoop-la-la will continue (with varying degrees of intensity) well beyond the Fourth. The noise terrorizes pets who run away to flee the scary sounds, burning embers are a fire hazard, and people sometimes lose a few fingers when they forget to run after lighting a fuse.

Another issue is my own dog, Winston, who would rather sneak a pee on the floor than go outside in the middle of World War III. No way, no how is he leaving the house when it sounds like the world is coming to an end.

Do you hear what I hear?

Bogey is less fireworks-challenged than Winston, although he does resent losing the entertainment value provided by watching birds and squirrels in the yard. I’ve often wondered what the woodland creatures must be thinking as they pack their nests and skedaddle from the area huffing, “There go those humans again, ruining the neighborhood. They sure know how to make property values decrease.”

When did Americans enter this love affair with blowing things up?

According to an article in Smithsonian.com, one year after the Declaration of Independence was signed, Philadelphia threw an enormous party.

One of the most elaborate celebrations in 1777, and the first organized celebration of its kind occurred in Philadelphia. This event had all of the elements of typical future celebrations-the discharge of cannon, one round for each state of the union, the ringing of bells, a dinner, the use of music, the drinking of toasts (it would subsequently be traditional to have one toast for each state of the union), “loud huzzas”, a parade, fireworks, the use of the nation’s colors, in this case the dressing up of “armed ships and gallies” in the harbor. 

Although my neighbors aren’t shooting cannons (at least not yet), my house is shaking from firecrackers and cherry bombs. However, reading about the first celebration did give me an idea on how to cope. If I drink a toast to each state of the union – all fifty of them! – most likely I won’t care what’s happening around me or puddling on my floor.

Bang! Sizzle! Kapow!

It’s true that we each must develop our own methods of getting by. From what Winston is showing me, it looks like one of mine will include a bottle of professional strength Resolve and a great big sponge.

Sharpshooter, Chameleon, and Rival

Years ago, I wrote a short story featuring Annie Oakley and her husband, Frank. I had a great time reading about her and the life she led, and it was fun imagining and penning a tale where Annie’s shooting skills dazzled a crowd of onlookers.

Annie Oakley preparing for an over-the-shoulder shot. I’m betting she didn’t miss her target. (Bettmann/Corbis)

In the course of gathering information, I ran across a young woman who was a major competitor of Annie’s named Lillian Frances Smith. With my focus on Annie, I didn’t pursue any in-depth facts on Lillian. I finished my story and moved on to other things, forgetting all about Annie’s rival.

Until a few months ago.

I discovered a new biography – in fact, the only biography – on Lillian Frances Smith, America’s Best Female Sharpshooter, written by Julia Bricklin. I couldn’t resist it, and ordered the book.

Lillian turns out to be a fascinating character in her own right.

Known as “The California Girl”, Smith amazed crowds at the age of fourteen, performing in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. As time changed circumstances, she was shrewd enough to reinvent herself in the public eye, becoming “Princess Wenona”. Chameleon-like, she used dark makeup and wore Native American dress, to bill herself as a Sioux sharpshooter. While she invented her Sioux heritage, her sharpshooting skills were real. Records credited to Lillian by the time of her death included such accomplishments as: breaking 71 of 72 glass balls thrown in the air while on the back of a running horse, hitting 300 swinging glass balls in 14 minutes and 33 seconds, and making 24 of 25 8-inch bull’s-eyes at 200 yards. Not shabby shooting at all.

A publicity shot of “Princess Wenona”. (Library of Congress via Smithsonian.com)

This biography not only brings Lillian Smith to life, but discusses the rivalry between Smith and Oakley in a way that helps us understand the differences and similarities between these two women. A look at how the Old West shows were operated by Buffalo Bill and other such entrepreneurs is a bonus.

Julia Bricklin is certainly qualified to tell Lillian’s story. She’s written for Wild West, Civil War Times, Financial History, True West, Smithsonian.com, and History.net. She edits California History.

If you’re looking for a well-researched biography about a strong woman from America’s past, I’d suggest picking up a copy.

Attention historical novelists! Wouldn’t “Princess Wenona” make a fabulous heroine for your next book?

The Naked Truth

There’s nothing like the deliciousness of really good chocolate. Yesterday, I threw away any notion of the diet I ought to be on, and indulged in a chocolate covered caramel made by Godiva. Heavenly! Yet after I examined the packaging, something occurred to me that I never thought about before – probably since I’m primarily focused on, well, chocolate.

A visit to the Godiva website told me that Godiva, a business with roots in Brussels, named their company after Lady Godiva, for “values associated with her of boldness, generosity, and a pioneering spirit”. The company logo features a naked woman with long flowing tresses (strategically placed) and riding a horse.

As most people know, the story of Lady Godiva (968-1057) is that she took pity on the people, begging her husband to reduce his oppressive taxes on them. Figuring he’d found the perfect way to keep her quiet, he said he’d reduce taxes when she rode naked through their town of Coventry. Godiva, after sending out a strongly worded proclamation for people to stay indoors and not peek, called her husband’s bluff.

Surprisingly, not a person in Coventry failed to follow her order except for one man named Tom, who couldn’t resist the temptation to sneak a look. He was immediately either struck blind or dead (depending on which version you read) through swift heavenly judgement. Meanwhile, Godiva’s ride convinced her husband to reduce taxes and everyone joyously celebrated, except, of course, for Peeping Tom.

It’s all a very pretty story indeed, despite the fact that it never happened. There are no accounts by Godiva’s contemporaries of such an event occurring, and gossip being what it is, most likely her acquaintances would have at least mentioned it. (“Did you hear what Lady Godiva did last week? I’m telling you, I could have died!”)

The oldest form of the story doesn’t appear until the 1200’s, and “Peeping Tom” doesn’t show up until the 1700’s – not exactly the most reliable sources of information. As time went on, little details were added to shape the current legend of Lady Godiva.

Statue of Lady Godiva in Coventry, England – scene of the infamous ride. (Tripadvisor photo)

Coventry, England remains quite proud of Lady Godiva and no one is willing to let her story disappear. The Godiva Procession, part of the Coventry Fair, has been held for many years with “Godiva” typically wearing a body suit and cloak (in case any Peeping Toms are curious). The event has changed over time, and is now called the Coventry Godiva Festival, with a decidedly rock concert leaning. If you’re planning a trip to Coventry around July 7-9, click HERE for the current lineup. Sadly, I didn’t see any mention of an appearance by Lady Godiva on the schedule.

At least there’s one thing of which we can be sure. A story might be only a legend, but Godiva chocolate? That, my friends, is real.

Humor and History is a Perfect Combination

I love to laugh and equally enjoy learning quirky little tidbits from the past. If you do, too, I have the perfect book to recommend. Launching Sheep & Other Stories from the Intersection of History & Nonsense is a collection of eighty-six blog posts written by Sarah Angleton – friend and fellow writer – selected from five years blogging as the Practical Historian.  As the title suggests, readers will not be bored by dry history lectures. The stories are witty and clever; drawing parallels between events from the past and the daily life of the author’s own family in an entertaining and decidedly tongue-in-cheek fashion.

Sarah Angleton signing at North Cafe.

Because all pieces in the collection are short, the book is easy to pick up and read whenever you have a spare moment. The only problem might be in putting it down.  While humor abounds, it so happens one of my favorite stories is a bit more poignant.  We learn about the author’s niece looking for the perfect wedding gown, and how Queen Victoria started a trend. Trust me, if you’ve bought a wedding dress, you’ll love the story, On the Shelf of Rarely Used Things.

Yesterday, Sarah had her first book signing at North Cafe in Wentzville, Missouri. I stopped in to congratulate her, and get an autograph on my copy. Do yourself a favor and buy this book on Amazon, or request it at your local bookstore. If you’d like to meet Sarah, you can visit her next signing at Our Town Books in Jacksonville, Illinois on June 2.

Congratulations to Sarah on a fabulous accomplishment!

Support your local authors. They need you!

Attending her signing moves me to mention the hard work involved in letting people know about a book. In the old days, authors like Edgar Allen Poe or Ernest Hemingway would arrange a tour to read from their work and (hopefully) sell some books. Some authors are reported to have bribed  paid editors and critics for recognition. Others who had a little extra coin in their pockets  might hire people to wear sandwich boards and walk through town (history’s version of social media).

Any way you look at it, getting out the word is tough.

That’s where you, dear readers, are so crucial. Pictured is a chart of ways you can help your favorite author. I can promise she (or he) will appreciate it more than you know.

 

 

 

 

 

« Older posts

© 2017 Pat Wahler

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On Pinterest