Freedom with fiction.


This morning a friend called and asked me if I’d read my reviews lately. She knows I don’t read reviews and haven’t for a long time. It’s her standard lead in when she feels like she needs to tell me something important.
“Well, it’s the shower thing. Another person mentioned it.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Absolutely nothing.”
This never goes over well. She thinks I should try to please everyone to gain a wider audience. I just can’t do that. When I wrote 1929 I knew there were no showers in the tenements. They were lucky to have a bathroom at all. Most of the time there was one filthy toilet room on each floor for everyone to share. I knew that there were mostly coal-burning stoves instead of fireplaces. And I tried writing it like that. But in my mind’s eye I saw it differently. Showers and fireplaces were in the more modern, well to do houses at the time. Was it a stretch to add an old rusty pipe leading from the faucet to a crude shower head into the tenement? Sure. For the most part, it isn’t historically accurate. And apparently, some people are getting hung up on that. At first I tried to justify it by thinking that perhaps the previous tenant was a shipbuilder and created it himself. I went through a dozen scenarios to justify its presence to myself. And then I realized I didn’t have to justify it. It was just there and it wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t. It was a stretch, but it’s fiction. I have creating freedom with fiction. And it isn’t as if Jonathan pulled out his iPhone while dodging a horse and buggy in the middle of the 1929 Stock Market crash. Even if I were tempted, the Muse would kill me if I tried to delete shower scene. It’s her favorite. And in case the nit-pickers forgot, on one of the first pages there are two words. For Lisa. This whole thing started out as entertainment for just her and I. My working title was a joke between us. It was called, “Killing time til Diana Gabaldon puts out another book.” That’s a mouthful so we shortened it to 1929.
So, if the shower or fireplace caused someone to put down the book, I’m sorry. Will I change it? No way. I have to be true to what I see. And I have to write not to please the masses, but as I have from the start. For Lisa.

Keeping it alive



I came across Misty on YouTube  about a year ago. I have watched nearly all of her videos and her way of life has been an inspiration to me and thousands of others across America. I am fascinated and somewhat envious of the simplicity, frugality and humility of this energetic woman! I find myself stuck between wanting to drink from a mason jar and a Waterford goblet. Between making handmade dresses and wearing a red-carpet gown. Stuck between this time and that. She lives in that time and no matter how beautiful the goblet or how shiny the dress, I’m drawn to that time just a little more. And I have to admit, I’ve used her videos a lot to describe scenes and actions on Caleb’s farm. I’ve never milked a cow or butchered a chicken and her videos give me a visual to work with. (There were no chickens killed in the writing of 1929) ūüėČ

The Muse and I actually made her homemade cough syrup. I renamed it “Kentucky CureAll, since my grandma was born in Haymond, Kentucky and I imagine this is similar to what her family might have used when they were sick. It certainly reminds me of how her family must have lived tucked up in the woods. These are skills that are dying with the last of the generation that survived the Great Depression. I am so happy to see someone teaching them to others and keeping them alive.

You can find Misty on Youtube and Facebook.

The Easter Bunny doesn’t carry bling.


My son was looking at the calendar and getting excited about Easter. It’s the only holiday that they get to start eating candy from the minute they get up. I, err-¬†the Easter Bunny, keeps it pretty simple. I buy nice baskets from the second-hand¬†store and decorate them with ribbons and things, colors and styles that suit¬†each son. (And a pink one that I’ll have to send off this year to the oldest in college.) I put in a traditional treat that they always get (a peanut butter egg with their name written on it) and the rest is just stuff I¬† know they will love and will cost me a fortune in dental bills in six months. It’s all part of the experience.

This year my youngest son knows the deal with the bunny and the fairy and the fat man in the suit. So they have started putting in ‘requests’. This year they want the Easter Bunny to bring a PS3. When I finished laughing, I said, “Sure. And maybe he’ll leave something from Waterford for me and a Rolex for your Father.”

I would have never dreamed of asking for such grand things from the bunny, the fat man or the Great Pumpkin. But times have changed. Kids have changed. Holidays and entertainment has changed. I told them that this year the Bunny would leave the traditional fare and after dinner we would sit and listen to some radio shows. (If I can get them to sit still and not twitch the entire time from the sugar high) Not too surprisingly, they liked the idea. My kids like old radio shows IF there is nothing else to do. I introduced them to the old shows a few years ago and they thought they were lame. They challenged me to find something that would even remotely scare them. I did (an episode of The Shadow) and¬†now they don’t mind them so much.

Here’s the site I use on those wonderful nights when we turn off anything electronic, (even lights) and sit together using our imagination.¬†It’s free, clean for all ages (real little ones that are still using their¬†imagination¬†to its fullest capacity might get frightened) but it really does make for a nice evening. We came to know it as “Candle night” because we turn off all the lights and light the room up with candles while we listen. Just another way I try to make right now ‘The good old days’.

In a 1930’s kitchen


With all the talk of “preppers” these days it really got me thinking about the old times. Back then I’m not even sure “prepper” was a word. It was an expected way of life if you wanted to survive. Everyone was a prepper and none of them knew it. Nowadays, the word prepper brings a whole new type of person to mind. Everything from the crazy old guy down the street in the tin foil hat–and chances are he’s been abducted by aliens–to the reality tv show with average looking families stocking spam, gas masks and pallets of long term storage food. (Frankly, if a gas mask is involved, is that powdered peanut butter needed for long?) It’s such a hot topic too! Preppers think non-preppers are crazy and non-preppers think preppers are nuts. No one wants to suffer. No one wants to see their children go without. And everyone I know has put aside a little something, however humble their stash of spam and trail mix may be, in case of job loss or sickness or some world calamity. It varies to degrees of obsession. But my thoughts always go back to our grandparents (My grandmother was born in 1929, just months before the bottom fell out) and her parents, who really had to muddle their way through this mess and came out the other end. And better for it, in my humble opinion. The depression era kitchen wasn’t one filled with prepackaged food, (though canned goods were gaining popularity) there were no big box stores and certainly no long-term food storage outlets. There were the basics. Alot of those basics were homegrown. It was a way of life to grow, preserve and tuck away food. Go without today so there’s twice as much tomorrow and make do or do without were accepted principles. Folks have a hard time with that today. While I try to model my kitchen after that of my great grandmother, I’ll admit I do, too.

I recently looked over a website that listed off the “basics” of a good food storage. The list was three pages long! I couldn’t believe what was considered a basic today was a surely a luxury back then. I came up with my own list of ‘basics’ should I need to care for my family sans income for a stint. It wasn’t terribly long. Since I cook mostly from scratch and use old recipes, most of it I already had.

I’ll never forget a news segment I watched about the food banks in our area. It was a year after the crash of 08 and they were running out of food frequently. There was a call for more donations and they featured an irate young woman with a few small kids holding up a five pound bag of flour. “What am I suppose to do with this?” she yelled into the camera. “I can’t feed three babies with this!” I sat back dumbfounded. Um, lady, yes, you can. Of course a few eggs, some powdered milk and baking powder might help, (heaven forbid some yeast) but someone with knowledge of the old ways could make 15 things out of that bag of flour. Food for thought, surely.

“Can you make it” Monday


Through the day? Ehh, with lots of coffee. I fell asleep last night listing to a depressing report of what America does not make anymore. Bad jobs reports, dire fiscal cliff warnings, (still haven’t avoided that fully you know) Commercials urging you to buy gold, buy food, buy guns, prepare for what’s coming…Sheesh!¬†¬†I’ve known for awhile that harder times are coming to this country and everyone knows someone who has lost everything in recent years. I have often wondered if the generations alive today have the intestinal fortitude to make it through to the other side. Sadly, I just¬† don’t know. I had to find some positive in all this and so I have decided to seek out Mompreneurs that make things, interview them and feature them on the blog on “Can you make it” Mondays. Combining handmade, made in the USA, highlighting¬†creative ways to get through these hard times and giving those hardworking moms some exposure. If you or anyone you know is a Mompreneur, email me for a spot. I’d love to feature you.

My new ghost? I shall name her Mabel.

It’s quite possible we have a ghost in the new place. We have settled down, (details in a future post) and today I am alone here for the first time. Love the peace and quiet. I was just sitting down to resurrect the blog I have neglected over the past few hectic months¬†having¬†put on one of my favorite records, “The Great Band Era”. Glenn Miller, Earl Hines, Hal McIntyre, Sammy Kaye, you know, all the good ones circa 1944. I love the sound of old records. Scratchy, tinny and original. Like the times and people of the past, it can’t be¬†reproduced today. (With the exception of¬†one band that hits it darn close, but I’ll get to that later.) So anyway, I was sitting here listening and the hair on the back of my neck raises. I get a shiver that runs through my whole body leaving electric tingles.¬†Almost simultaneously, I feel as if¬†someone has entered the room.¬†I could feel it the same as¬†I feel my husband or son enter the room and I have heightened paranoia about that because I’m weird¬†in the way that I can’t have anyone looking over my shoulder when I write. So my radar goes¬†off whenever anyone is around. Trouble is, as I said, I was home alone. I got the deep-rooted¬†feeling that someone was looking right at me. And my mind flashes back to when we first bought this place and the elderly woman across the¬†street came over to welcome us. She went on¬†politely in a slurred, dementia filled ramble¬†and I could tell she was quite lonely. She talked about the people who lived here before and had good words for them. And the old couple that lived here before that. Then she became quite lucid, looked me in the eye and said, “She died here, you know. Right in that back room.” Oh. Crap.¬†My sister, who was here helping me with some of the demo work, went into crisis management mode, knowing how I am about such things. Thank heavens she works with mentally unstable people and knew exactly what to do!¬†I’m a big friggin’ chicken and the hyperventilation started promptly. The older lady finally went home without dispensing any further wonderful news and I started trying to figure out how I was going to live here knowing that.¬†Having no other home, I had to¬†suck it up and¬†much to my relief,¬†all has been quiet. No paranormal activity, no things misplaced or strange noises in the night. I thought, “Good. She’s moved on.” After all, not all who die hang around. But then today I put on the old music and suddenly I feel something, as strongly as I’d feel a living, breathing human and¬†I wasn’t afraid. That is very unlike me, who beats feet out of a room before I bother to find out what a noise or shadow was. I wasn’t scared. I had the detached thought that the music must have attracted her. I turned very slowly and looked at the living room entry where the feeling was coming from. Nothing. No shadow or apparition. The feeling left instantly as well. Electricity¬†disappeared and raised hairs fell.¬†So, if we don’t have a full time ghost, I think I have someone returning to enjoy the music. At least she has good taste. I think I’ll name her Mabel.

Oh, and the band I mentioned earlier is “Boy and Bean” I lived in the Pacific Northwest all those years and never got down to Oregon to see them, but I’d still love to manage a show sometime. I donated to them on Kickstarter¬†to help get their first album off and running. Great sound. Check them out and tell them MLGardner sent you.

Boy and Bean