November Tea Party Winners: Carrie Fancett Pagels' copy of The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection - Debbie Curto, Christmas tea - Andrea Stephens, Golden Tea body wash Joy Ellis, lighthouse earrings -- Pegg's SIL from Lake Ann and Perrianne Askew, Pegg Thomas's Leather journal - Shelia Hall, and Writing Prompts book goes to - Connie Porter Saunders

Friday, December 7, 2018

Some Colonial Shrub to Toast the Holidays?

Apparently there's an old world drink mixture out there that is tart, fruity, and sweet, all in one, but I'd never heard of it until recently. Yet, this special beverage seems like the ideal thing to try as part of my family's holiday food and beverage lineup. Imagine my delight to discover that this beverage called Shrub, a syrupy combination of fruit, vinegar, and sweetener, is something that originated with the Babylonians but really grew in popularity during the Colonial period? Ooh! Apparently sea-faring colonists discovered it to be terrific for preventing scurvy--in case you have a vitamin C deficiency and need to know.

While some may use shrub as a mixer with alchohol, you can drink it with seltzer water or even plain water to make a delightfully refreshing, non-alchoholic drink. It can even be used in salad dressing. What?!? Yep, that's what I learned.

You can find craft shrub sold online by home-producers around the country, but I couldn't resist trying to make some myself. All it takes is fruit, vinegar, and sugar. All the recipes I read say that you don't even have to use the best fruit. Rather, it's a good time to use up store seconds and the bruised stuff in your fridge. I was going to purchase a carton of pretty, plump blackberries but--keeping it real--I pulled some raspberries out of the freezer that I'd picked mid-summer, and they looked like they ought to get used soon.

The pictures below show the stages I've done so far--about a ten minute project. It's been "standing" for a few days, so I haven't gotten to the "strain and add the sugar" stage yet, much less tasted it. We are going to wait until Christmas for the official pour-and-mix, so I won't do those steps until December 22nd.

Jar sterilized, berries prepped and added.

Apple cider vinegar heated almost to boiling and poured over the berries.

Cooling before capping and setting in a cool, dark place (um...the refrigerator).

If you'd like to join me in making some homemade shrub, here is the recipe I chose -- easy peasy.

Stay-tuned for my update on January 4th, when I let you know if this little project turned out and whether or not it's something I'd do again. If you decide to try it (or already have) I'd love to know!

(By the way, if you want a relaxing cuppa in the meantime, how about some Salted Caramel Tea? For real! It's yummy. I didn't know about this until a few days ago either. Where have I been? Lost on the frontier? Apparently.)

Does your family celebrate with any special beverages during the holidays? Wassail? Eggnog? A flaming rum punch or an endless flow of hot cocoa and apple cider? However you toast to the holidays, please...

Have a joyful and blessed Christmas!
Naomi Musch

Friday, November 30, 2018

November Tea Party -- New Releases from Angela K. Couch, Pegg Thomas and Carrie Fancett Pagels

Welcome back to the heart of the Mohawk Valley! I know most of us are experiencing winter, but let's step into the spring of 1781, shall we? The Revolutionary War has been raging for a half decade, but the battle to decide the fate of the war will be fought before the year's end. The perfect time for a tea party and to become reacquainted with old friends!

Please also join us on Facebook, 1-3PM Eastern, for more fun and prizes!
Click HERE to attend!


Angela K. Couch: Almost two years ago you joined me in Rachel and Andrew's love story in The Scarlet Coat, where were were introduced to Rachel's brother Joseph Garnet. Book two, The Patriot and the Loyalist took us south to South Carolina for a more "cloak and dagger" style of fight. Now we are back, to join Joseph as he discovers what true love really feels like.

Burying his wife is the hardest thing Joseph Garnet has ever done—until he's called to leave his young son and baby daughter to fight Iroquois raiders. When one of the marauders tries to steal his horse, the last thing he expects is to end up tussling with a female. The girl is wounded, leaving Joseph little choice but to haul her home to heal—an act that seems all too familiar.

Though Joseph doesn’t appear to remember her, Hannah Cunningham could never forget him. He rode with the mob that forced her two brothers into the Continental Army and drove her family from their home—all because of her father’s loyalties to The Crown. After five years with her mother’s tribe, the rebels and starvation have left her nothing but the driving need to find her brothers.

Compelled by a secret he’s held for far too long, Joseph agrees to help Hannah find what remains of her family. Though she begins to steal into his aching heart, he knows the truth will forever stand between them. Some things cannot be forgiven.

To keep from freezing in the Great White North, Angela K Couch cuddles under quilts with her laptop. Winning short story contests, being a semi-finalist in ACFW’s Genesis Contest, and a finalist in the International Digital Awards also helped warm her up. As a passionate believer in Christ, her faith permeates the stories she tells. Her martial arts training, experience with horses, and appreciation for good romance sneak in there, as well. When not writing, she stays fit (and warm) by chasing after three munchkins.

To celebrate with you, and to kick of the Christmas season, Angela Civil War story: I Heard the Bells, winner of the ACFW's  Virginia chapter's short story contest, is free on Amazon for the next three days! Hope you enjoy!
Publisher’s Overview: Lighthouses have long been the symbol of salvation, warning sailors away from dangerous rocks and shallow waters.
Along the Great Lakes, America’s inland seas, lighthouses played a vital role in the growth of our nation. They shepherded settlers traveling by water to places that had no roads. These beacons of light required constant tending even in remote and often dangerous places. Brave men and women battled the elements and loneliness to keep the lights shining. Their sacrifice kept goods and immigrants moving. Seven romances set between 1883 and 1911 bring hope to these lonely keepers and love to weary hearts.
Pegg Thomas was the lead on new release The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection from Barbour Publishing. Her novella, Anna's Tower, is set in 1883 at Thunder Bay Island Lighthouse near where Pegg lives in Michigan!

Blurb:Anna Wilson's plan to be the next lighthouse keeper is endangered when Maksim Ivanov is shipwrecked on Thunder Bay Island. Handsome and capable, he could steal her dream. Or provide a new one.

Carrie Fancett Pagels
"Love's Beacon" novella  is set at Round Island and on Mackinac Island in Michigan in the late 1890s, one of Carrie's favorite places for story world.

Blurb: Valerie Fillman believes she’s lost everything—until widower Paul Sholtus takes on the Lighthouse Keeper position at Round Island Lighthouse, where her parents and siblings perished. Can God send a light and direct the paths of these two? Or will a shocking discovery separate them forever?

Carrie is giving away some delicious Twinings Christmas tea and a copy of The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides collection and some Thé Doré (Golden Tea) Shower gel from Yves Rocher. Leave a comment to enter for the prizes!

There is also a Rafflecopter for The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides collection and includes a three boxes of fudge from Joann's Fudge, too, and other gifts not shown in the picture. Ends in one week so enter now!

Pegg is giving away a leather-bound journal because where would be historical writers be without the journals of those who went before us? There is no greater treasure trove for a writer than a journal from the time period they are writing. Who knows, maybe your journal today will inspire a writer - or even your family members - in the decades to come! Make a comment below with the word JOURNAL in it to be in the drawing.
Pegg is also giving away "300 Writing Prompts" to anyone interested in writing for themselves. This book, which is similar to a journal, gives the writer a subject and space to write down their thoughts on it. The prompts are thoughtful and would be another great idea to hand down the family as an heirloom. Make a comment below with the word PROMPTS in it to be in the drawing.

Also Visit With Us LIVE! 
We're thankful for our readers and we're happy to be celebrating over on Facebook at our party from 1-3 PM Eastern Time. Click here  We'll each have a half hour slot to visit with guests: Pegg at 1:00, Carrie at 1:30, Angela at 2:00, all Eastern Time. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

As American as Crabapple Jelly

Thanksgiving might be the most tradition-bound holiday for me. There’s no wondering what will be on the table!

We all seem to celebrate the wonders of pumpkin (well, really pumpkin spice) as soon as September rolls around, but apple pie, that’s an all together different subject. We love apple pie all year long!

"American as apple pie." (We'll leave hot dogs for another time...)

While apple pie is always on my holiday table, I'm certain it was not part of the first Thanksgiving feast in its present form. Pumpkin pie would be a no also, even though squash was likely part of that multi-day meal. Because that canned pumpkin you buy is really a squash cultivar, the lines of linking back to 1621 are blurred there…

The truth is that until European settlements became established, the only apple option was the native crabapple.

If you’ve eaten this interesting little fruit, it’s likely been in the form of jelly. Like another tart fruit, serviceberry (Amelanchier spp. for example), jellies and jams and preserves make up for that mouth-puckering taste with the addition of ‘additional’ sugar.

Apples came to the continent in bits and pieces—apples, seeds, and rootstocks. Champions of early colonial horticulture tried most fruits (and flowering plants and vegetables) in various climates and soil types throughout the new colonies. Robert Prince, likely the first and most well-known, founded a nursery in 1737 in Flushing, NY he named The Linean. (Correctly spelled Linnaean after the father of scientific classification--how things are named.)

By trial and error and a lot of persistence, Prince eventually began apple tree production along with pear and grape, and ornamental crops such as roses.

Prince became internationally known for his work, but his name is lost for the most part. Ask anyone about early apple orchards and you here only one name: Johnny Appleseed!

A skilled graftsman, Robert Prince is likely responsible for most of the apples we have now as they were based on his work. Hundreds of varieties of apples have come and gone in almost three hundred years and their geneology is well-recorded.

Today, crabapples are a common landscape tree grown for their brilliant showy spring blossoms in every hue from white to red.

Did the colonists like their apple pie? It’s said that during the Revolutionary War, General Howe ordered military protection of Prince’s huge plant nursery. Their success brought a visit by President Washington in 1789. Just when that imported fruit became part of our national identity isn’t clear, but you’ll always find both apple and pumpkin pie on my holiday table!

What was on yours?

Cooked crabapples are strained; the resulting liquid is cooked with sugar and pectin.
both photos via Creative Commons


Have a wonderful, blessed holiday season my friends!

Friday, November 23, 2018

The First Black Friday at Ye Olde Haberdashery

Prudence Moody clutched her basket to her breast and waited with the other women. The wind blew cold beneath her skirts, her feet already numb. But it would be worth it once the door opened. The wooden sign painted with a fair likeness of a needle and thread swung above the door. Its metal fastenings creaked with each gust.
Not a word passed between the women gathered beneath it. It was as if their next breath hinged on the opening of that door. The rattle of a key brought each woman to her toes, breath suspended. Then the door opened and—as if it were one beast—the collective breath released and the women surged forward.
“Nay, release that sprigged muslin. ’Tis sure that I had it first.” Chastity Bradford wrest the bolt of fabric from the hands of Mercy Fryer.
“’Tis not truth, for I certainly touched it before thee,” Mercy made a grab for the muslin but caught only the back of Chastity’s shawl.
“Here now, ladies, there be plenty for all.” Mister Rushmore raised his hands as if to slow or quiet the mob, but the ladies pushed past him.
Prudence scurried to the back corner where a table displayed a few scant yards of Chantilly lace. She spied the perfect strip of knotted ivory when it was snatched from the table and trust into the basket of Selah Bell.
“Selah, I was intent on that lace.”
“Then ’tis fortunate for me I arrived first.” With a swish of her skirts, Selah whisked to the next table.
“Here now, ladies, we have much to—” Mister Rushmore’s words cut off as some lady’s elbow connected with his midsection while she wrested a gray linen bolt from her neighbor.
Prudence turned back to the lace table, but every scrap was gone. Every scrap! A roiling sea of skirts blocked her way to the shelves that lined the opposite wall of the haberdashery. Someone trod on her foot, a basket rammed into her spine, and a hand grazed the side of her head as she fought her way through the horde.
Three silver thimbles gleamed on the middle shelf. She only needed one, but the impressive expanse of Hester Bleeker’s hips blocked Prudence from getting within reaching distance. Help came in the form of skinny Phoebe Collins, who smacked into Prudence with enough force to wedge her between Hester’s hips and Mercy’s shoulder. She reached for the thimbles when the unthinkable happened.
The shelf collapsed.
Like a quilt shaken in the wind and laid out for a picnic, the ladies in the haberdashery floated to the floor in a tangle of skirts and bonnets. Prudence landed on her hands and knees, the basket torn from her grasp.
“Get thee off my person!”
“Unhand those scissors, they are mine!”
“Thy foot is on my hand!”
“Ladies, please—”
“Get thee out of my way!”
 Prudence was pushed backward, her knee landing on something small and hard as an elbow connected with her cheek. She rolled to her side and grabbed the hard object. A thimble. She curled her fingers around it and wormed her way out of the crush of skirts and bodies until she could stand.
Mister Rushmore, his powdered wig askew, stood in the middle of his store, his mouth agape and waistcoat torn. His wife hunkered behind the solid oak counter, eyes wide and lips trembling. Prudence waded toward her, the thimble clenched to her palm.
“Mrs. Rushmore,” Prudence panted by the time she reached the counter. “I would purchase this thimble, and then be on my way.”
The woman nodded, apparently incapable of speech, so Prudence fished her pocket from underneath her apron and dug out the required coins. Half the required coins since that was the sale today, everything half off for Philadelphia’s first Black Friday Sale.
Her bill paid, Prudence found her basket in a tangle of wreckage near the door. She pried it from the others and hung it, albeit lopsidedly, from her arm. Then she patted her hair back under her bonnet and strode out the door.
Eliab, her husband, waited in the wagon across the street.
“Did thee purchase what thee needed?” he asked.
“Indeed, and at quite the bargain.” She held out her shiny prize for him to admire.
He eyed the thimble, then leaned closer to peer under her bonnet. “Why, wife, I believe thou shalt sport a black eye by eventide.”

She pressed her fingers against the tender flesh of her cheek. “Nevertheless, husband, ’twas worth it.”
And lo, the tradition began ...

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Women Soldiers, Combatants, and Spies in the American Revolution

When I began writing my American Patriot Series, I realized that the storyline I envisioned would require my heroine, Elizabeth Howard, to do many things one doesn’t usually associate with 18th century women at the time of the American Revolution. I wanted the story to be as authentic as possible—no modern-day women in historical clothing! When I started doing research, I discovered that, in fact, women were involved in a whole lot of activities during the Revolutionary War that most of us have never heard about. So here are a few brief accounts of some of the ways women became directly involved in fighting for our independence.

Sybil Ludington Statue
On April 26, 1777, two years and eight days after Paul Revere made his famous ride, Sybil Ludington, the daughter of Col. Henry Ludington, a New York militia officer and later an aide to General George Washington, did essentially the same thing. Except that she was 16, a girl, and she rode more than twice the distance Revere did. Not to mention that her route was a whole lot more daunting, and much of the way it rained hard. Learning that Governor William Tryon’s troops were marching on Danbury, Connecticut, 15 miles away, to carry off the militia’s munitions and stores, Sybil immediately jumped on her horse and took a 40-mile jaunt to rouse the countryside, while her father mobilized the locals. She left her home at Fredericksburgh, NY, at 9:00 p.m. and arrived back home at dawn. By then almost the whole regiment of 400 soldiers had mustered due to her warning. They were on the march within a couple of hours and engaged the British at the Battle of Ridgefield. Although they arrived too late to stop the sack of Danbury, they drove Tryon’s forces back to Long Island. After the war, in 1784, then twenty-three year-old Sybil married Edmund Ogden, a farmer and innkeeper. They had six children and in 1792 settled in Catskill, NY, where they lived until Sybil’s death on February 26, 1839, at the age of 77. She is buried near her father in the Patterson Presbyterian Cemetery in Patterson, NY.

Frontispiece of The Female Review: Life of Deborah
Sampson, the Female Soldier in the War of Revolution
There’s no way to know how many women actually served as soldiers during the war by disguising themselves as men, but we do know about 4 who did. Probably the most well-known is Deborah Sampson. Born in 1760, in Plympton, Massachusetts, she enlisted in Captain George Webb’s Company of the 4th Massachusetts in 1782, calling herself Robert Shurtleff. By all accounts she performed her duties admirably and  achieved the rank of corporal. During her first battle, on July 3, 1782, outside Tarrytown, NY, she took two musket balls in her thigh and suffered a cut on her forehead. She managed to avoid detection then, but later was discovered to be a woman. Honorably discharged, she was later granted a pension for her services. The Massachusetts legislature issued a declaration stating that she “exhibited an extraordinary instance of female heroism by discharging the duties of a faithful, gallant soldier.” Sampson later talked about her experiences in the war as a lecturer, saying that she enlisted because of the unjust deaths of colonists at the hands of British soldiers.

Detail of Battle of Germantown by Christian Schussele
Anna Maria Lane probably married her husband, John, before he enlisted in the Connecticut line in 1776 under General Israel Putnam. It isn’t clear if she also disguised herself as a man or just accompanied him as a camp follower. We do know that by the Battle of Germantown she was wearing men’s clothing, though that may have been for convenience. The records of Virginia’s General Assembly state that she “with the courage of a soldier, performed extraordinary military services, and received a severe wound at the battle of Germantown.” Following the war, the Lanes moved to Virginia, and both drew pensions for their service.

Two other women are known to have fought in the Revolution. Sally St. Clare was a Creole girl who lost her life in the war. Another known only as “Samuel Gay,” was discovered to be a woman and discharged. It’s likely others also served in the army as men but were never detected.

Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth,
engraving by J.C. Armytage, c. 1859
Still other women became combatants when need arose. You’ve undoubtedly heard the name “Molly Pitcher,” which was attached to a woman who stepped in to service her husband cannon after he fell. There’s some evidence that at least two women performed such duties. Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley accompanied her husband, John, who served with the Seventh Pennsylvania Regiment. During the Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey, on June 28, 1778—which will be portrayed in book 6 of my series, Refiner’s Fire—she was hauling water to her husband’s cannon for the sponger to swab out the barrel, when John collapsed, either because of a wound or the day’s extreme heat. Mary immediately stepped up and took his place, assisting the gun crew for the rest of the battle.

Corbin Memorial, West Point Cemetery,
United States Military Academy
Margaret Cochran Corbin was married to John Corbin, another artilleryman, who was killed in the Battle of Fort Washington in November 1776. She also filled her husband’s place at the cannon, assisting in sponging and loading, and received grape shot wounds in the arm and chest. Disabled for the rest of her life, she was an original member of the Invalid Regiment that Congress created in 1777 to care for disabled soldiers. In 1779 Corbin was granted a stipend of $30 and a lifelong pension of half a soldier's pay. She was the first American woman to receive a disabled veteran's pension.

Women also served as spies during the Revolution. A laundress at British headquarters in Philadelphia alerted Washington to British General Henry Clinton’s withdrawal from the city, and many others served in the shadows, like Lydia Darragh. British officers occupying her house in Philadelphia used a large upstairs room for their secret conferences. Lydia would slip into an adjoining closet and take notes on their plans, and after her husband transcribed the intelligence in a form of shorthand on tiny slips of paper, she enclosed them in fabric-covered buttons, which she sewed onto the coat of her fourteen-year-old son, John. When he visited his elder brother, Lieutenant Charles Darragh, serving with the Continental Army outside the city, Charles would snip off the buttons, write out the notes, and send them to his superior. Lydia also supposedly concealed other intelligence in a sewing-needle packet she carried in her purse when passing through British lines.

Major John André
One of the most well-known female spies today was a member of the famous Culper Ring in the New York City area, who was known only by her codename “355,” which stood for “lady” in the Culper code. Her background is unknown, but it’s speculated that she may have come from a prominent Tory family with access to British commanders. She was one of several young, attractive, and intelligent women surrounding dashing British Major John André. When he was arrested by the Americans and executed as a spy in October 1780, Benedict Arnold, one of Washington’s officers who had defected to the British, questioned everyone associated with him. Agent 355 was pregnant at the time and refused to identify the child’s father, arousing Arnold’s suspicions. He had her arrested, and she was held on the infamous prison ship Jersey, moored in the East River. She bore a son there and died shortly thereafter, never identifying the child’s father. But, tellingly, she named him after Robert Townsend, another member of the Culper Ring.

Yet other women followed Washington's army for safety and subsistence. Many provided services such as cooking, washing and mending clothing, and nursing, and consequently received rations and sometimes pay. In my next post, we’ll take a look at the life of camp followers.

How many of these women have you heard of? Which one do you find most interesting or appealing?
J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers and a lifelong student of history. She is also an author, editor, and publisher. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. Book 6, Refiner’s Fire, releases in April 2019. Northkill, Book 1 of the Northkill Amish Series coauthored with Bob Hostetler, won Foreword Magazine’s 2014 Indie Book of the Year Bronze Award for historical fiction. Book 2, The Return, received the 2017 Interviews and Reviews Silver Award for Historical Fiction and was named one of Shelf Unbound’s 2018 Notable Indie Books. One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story, was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year and a finalist in the Carol Award.