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Monday, June 27, 2022

The Bayeux Tapestry - an amazing historical source. Lindsay Townsend

Men fought and died in England in the battle of Hastings in 1066. The kingdom and crown passed to a foreigner, William of Normandy.

This event is recorded in spectacular detail by the Bayeux Tapestry, made by women. There are only a few women shown on the tapestry in this story of feudal rights and obligations, claims, counter-claims and war, but scholars now agree that women made it.

The 'tapestry' is in fact an embroidery, done on strips of linen joined together to form a huge running narrative of the events leading up to and beyond the decisive battle. The seven joints are done with great skill and are almost invisible. At one time the tapestry was even longer, but the end is now damaged and incomplete. However the rest is a stunning, detailed account, a unique primary source.

Who were the women who embroidered this massive tapestry? Evidence suggests they were English. Earlier French tradition claimed the tapestry had been embroidered by William's wife Matilda, but what seems increasingly likely is that the piece was made in England as a gift for the new queen.

English female embroiderers were famous throughout Europe for their wall-hangings and church garments. Earlier English queens, such as Edith, were acclaimed for their skill as embroiders. A wall hanging made by English embroiders, showing the defeat of the English at the battle of Maldon in 991, was given to the monastery at Ely by the defeated leader's widow, Aelflaed, as a memorial to the English dead. The Bayeux Tapestry may have partly served as a memorial to the English dead and have even been stitched by some English widows at either Winchester, the seat of the court and government in Anglo-Saxon England, or Canterbury, or the nunnery at the Minster in Sheppey in Kent - all famed centres of English embroidery. In some cases we may even know their names, such as the woman Leofgeat, who in 1086 in the Domesday Book is described as doing gold embroidery for the king.

Gold was not used in the Bayeux Tapestry, but wool thread dyed sage green, blue-green, red, buff and blue were stitched on the linen using an outline and stem stitch, then laid and couched stitches, making the whole stand out in low relief, like a sculptor’s frieze. The figures are active and the tumult of the battle is shown. The English warriors with their moustaches and longer hair are picked out, and the Normans with their cropped locks, and several of the key moments of 1066 are there – Halley’s comet, as a presager of trouble, William, lifting up his helmet to reveal his face and prove he’s still alive, and the climax of the battle, where Harold is felled by the arrow.

A woman is also behind a faithful facsimile of the tapestry. In 1885 Elizabeth Wardle saw the original at Bayeux and, along with 35 other women, was inspired to produce a copy, to be housed in England. This is now kept at the museum in Reading, England.

Lindsay Townsend 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The Perfect Setting


     Setting is as integral to a story as the characters and plot. It can also be important to backstory. When I was developing the backstory for Anna, the protagonist in The Legacy, I needed her to be from a location in Denmark that was just north of the German-occupied area of South Jutland in 1874. Farming had to be a major occupation in the area. I also wanted to be able to locate Anna’s family home near a sizable city, where her brother could have been employed by a brewery.


Photo is property of author

     At the time I had not been to Denmark so I looked at a map from the period and selected the city of Vejle. I researched the area enough to know it fit my basic criteria. Now that I’ve visited the city, I’ve learned that Vejle’s beauty and history make it a worthy main character.

     The city is situated in eastern Jutland. Businesses and residences stand in river valleys and on the slopes of wooded hills. Green trees provide a lovely backdrop for the numerous brick structures and tiled roofs.

Photo by K.A. Knudsen

     Vejle’s name comes from an Old Danish word meaning “ford,” because the city is located at the convergence of the Vejle and Greis Rivers at the head of the Vejle Fjord. In Viking times, area wetlands had to be crossed by the Ravning Bridge, a nearly half-mile wooden structure. Remnants of the bridge which were discovered buried in the ground date back to ca.890-985 AD. It is believed to have been built by Harold Bluetooth and his people, but its purpose is uncertain. Archaeologists’ theories vary from the bridge being built quickly for troop transport to more mundane purposes such as allowing traders to transport wares over the swampy area.

Photo via Wiki Commons

     The first known recorded mention of the city dates back to 1256, but archaeological digs in downtown Vejle have discovered that there were homes in the area as far back as 1100. The current St. Nicolai Church building, in the same downtown area, dates to the 13th century. Dedicated to the patron saint of merchants and seafarers, the original church was built in late Romanesque style. Renovations have occurred over the centuries especially after incurring serious damage during the Thirty Years War (1618-1848). Since then there have been several major updates, the most recent being in the 1960s. The church houses many artifacts, including the remains of the Haraldsk√¶r Woman, one of the best preserved of the Iron Age bog bodies, on display in a glass-covered sarcophagus.

     During the Middle Ages, Vejle was an important market town. Through the 1500s and into the 1600s, the town experienced prosperity and growth, benefiting from rising exports. Vejle continued to develop along those lines up to the mid-17th century. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the population decreased due to plague and war.

Photo is property of author

     The 1801 census showed that Vejle had approximately 1,300 townspeople. In 1827, a new harbor was established on the fjord, and in the latter part of the 19th century, a railroad station and modern utilities set the town on the path to continued growth. Today, the city’s population is approximately 59,000.

     Although my selection was somewhat serendipitous, Vejle is a noble town near which to situate the fictional ancestral home of Anna and the other characters in the Stryker Legacy series.

 Ann Markim




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Monday, June 13, 2022


Whether paper, plastic, bamboo or glass, people have been sipping through hollow tubes for centuries. Between 6000 to 7,000 years ago, the ancient Mesopotamians invented the very first straws, usually made from wood and, sometimes, gold to reach the beer sitting below fermentation byproducts floating on top.

The first patent for a drinking straw was filed in 1888 by Marvin Chester Stone, a paper cigarette holder manufacturer. The legend goes that he was drinking a mint julep when the piece of rye grass he was using as a straw disintegrated. Determined to make something better, he wrapped and glued strips of paper around a pencil, coming up with the first prototype of paper drinking straws. By 1890, Stone Industrial was mass producing them. Stone promised his customers “health, cleanliness and economy,” with his straws, which reassured some of those who were concerned about catching the myriad diseases of the time. Paper straws allowed them to avoid making direct contact with the glass while drinking. At one point, Stone was producing two million paper straws a day in his factory. 

Bendy straws were created in the 1930s when inventor Joseph Friedman inserted a screw into the straw, wrapped floss around the screw's grooves, and took out the screw. With indentations, the straw could easily bend without breaking and his young daughter could then easily drink her milkshake.

Straws have been made from precious metals, grains like wheat and rye, paper, plastic and lots more.



Tuesday, June 7, 2022

The Victorian Laundry

The Victorian Laundry

By C. A. Asbrey 

Some time ago I did a post on cleaning in the past, and many of the tips and recipes for organic cleaning materials proved very popular. Today I'm going to take us to the laundry and share the secrets of stain removal from days gone by.

In the days before dry cleaning and washing machines, it was the job of the lady's maid to delicately treat stains, repair wear and tear, and ensure that the complex layers of fabric in elaborate gowns were all as good as new for the next wearing. Often, this job would mean removing trims and ribbons before washing, treating those separately, and then reattaching them. Sometimes this involved weaving them through the intricate lace of broderie anglaise. At other times, feathers needed to be cleaned, or the lace itself, not to mention elaborate fabric flowers or motifs.

Before we start on the dresses themselves, how were the trims washed? Lace and broderie anglaise were pretty simple, often hand washed in a gentle soap in lukewarm water. Satin or velvet ribbon received a similar treatment, but it was important not to twist these, or wring them out. That would ruin them. Any stains on the trim were dealt with as per the treatments for the same fabric on a gown, which I'll come to later. Lace was washed around ribbon blocks or bottles, and tacked to keep them smooth, whilst being cleaned by sweet oil, and Castile soap. The lace was dried in the sun and kept flat in paper between books, or wrapped around ribbon blocks until added back to the dress   

Salt was used, not only to soften the water, but to aid in colour fastness in an era where dyeing was less sophisticated. Ribbons were notorious for being less colour fast than bales of fabric, and it simply would not do to allow them to fade in the wash.   

For feathers, there were two methods of cleaning. One was to scatter them with a mixture of salt and bicarbonate of soda, and gentle shake, or brush, away the dust. Brush only in the direction of the plumage using a very soft brush. Feathers can be washed individually in a soapy solution. Again, never rub against the direction of the plumage, and fully rinse away any soap residue. Never wash different colours of dyed feathers together.

They should be hung by the stem to dry. If your feathers, particularly ostrich feathers, lose their fluff, a light steaming can return them to their full glory. Once more, follow the plumage as you gently rub. The steam will make the original fluff return, but once they have reached their original glory, stop immediately. Go too far, or treat the feather too roughly, and you'll lose that plume forever.      

Printed muslin was a very popular dress fabric in the nineteenth century. This too, suffered from the problem of the prints not being colour fast. Again, salt was used to help fix the dye during the washing stage. The salt was also required during the double rinse stage, and when carefully wrung out, the dress was hung so no part lay over another, so no part of the pattern could be inadvertently transferred to another area of the fabric.

Silk dresses were spot treated before being washed. The 1861 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book described a stain remover for silk as follows:

"Quarter of a pound of honey; quarter of a pound of soft soap; two wineglasses of gin; three gills of boiling water."

This mixture would be applied to the stain at blood temperature with a soft brush. It would be worked in until the stain dissipated. The whole fabric would then be sponged by hand, and the dress dried across a clothes horse after rinsing in softened cold water. Rain water was often collected for this purpose, as well as for a final rinse for washing hair. The lady's maid was advised not to let the fabric dry in direct sun, as that too, would fade a delicate dye. Sal-volatile, a scented solution of ammonium carbonate in alcohol, and better known as smelling salts, was used to help restore colour removed from silks.  

To remove grease stains from silk, French chalk is scraped on the wrong side, left for some time, them scraped off. If the stain is more persistent hold the fabric covered in French chalk near the fire or over steam, until the stain melts and is absorbed by the chalk. The method can be repeated until the stain isn gone.

The Victorians fully embraced formal mourning, and as such, wore black and dark fabrics in a way we do not today. Those dresses were susceptible to stains from food, candles, oil from lamps and cooking, grubby children's fingers, and everyday life. Most of those stains were slightly greasy and shone out in dull fabrics.      

Fig leaves contain furocoumarins that can cause a phototoxic reaction on skin, but that acidic property also makes for a great stain remover. Fig leaves were boiled in two quarts of water, until they were reduced to a pint This solution was then sponged onto a stain as a spot cleaner. It helped dissolve the grease before the fabric was washed.  

To clean shiny black satin, boil three pounds of potatoes in a quart of water, strain through a sieve, and brush the fabric with it on a board or table. The satin must not be wrung, but folded down in cloths for three hours, and iron on the wrong side.  

Mild acid was also used to remove ink. The 1857 book Mrs. Hale's Receipts for the Million by Sarah Josepha Buell Hale gives a recipe for its removal as follows: As soon as the accident happens, wet the place with the juice of sorrel or lemon, or with vinegar, and the best hard, white soap.

For larger areas stained with ink Mrs. Hale suggests, get a pint cup, or narrow-topped jug full of boiling water; place the stained part of the (linen etc.) dip it in and draw it tight over the top of the cup, and while wet and hot, rub in a little salt of sorrel. The acid should remain on the fabric for half-an-hour before it is washed. As salt of sorrel is a power poison, the paper should be marked poison, and it should be locked up when not in use.   

Pitch and tar were a problem, especially around the hems. It was suggested that the worst be scraped off, and that a mixture of turpentine and lemon juice be used to dissolve away the residue.

There were special rinses use to help preserve the colours of expensive silks. Sometimes, small quantities of dye were added to the final rinse, but also vitriol (sulphuric acid) was used to brighten scarlet, crimson, maroon, or bright yellow. Ox-gall was sponged on both sides of black. Lemon juice was used for pink, carnation, or rose. A pinch of verdigris maintained olive-green, whilst pearlash (a strong alkaline compound consisting mainly of potassium carbonate) worked on blue and purple. 

The wonderful Mrs. Hale also gives a recipe for a portable stain remover for accidents out and about. She suggests a mix of fullers earth, pearlash, lemon juice worked into a paste, them formed into balls that are dried in the sun. These can be used to remove most average stains. Moisten the stain, rub on the ball, and rinse the area. Once dry, the stain should be gone.  

The lady's maid also tended to the shoes. To remove grease from leather, apply egg white and let it dry in the sun. Mix turpentine, half an ounce of mealy potatoes (known to us as the most starchy varieties like russets and Idahos), pure ground mustard, and apply this mixture to the spot. Once dry, rub off, and finish with a little vinegar.

Kid gloves were cleaned by donning them, and rubbing French chalk over the palms and fingers as though washing the hands. Leave the chalk on overnight, then put the gloves on again and clap the hands until all the chalk is gone. Fullers earth can also be used. Dirty spots can be treated with a normal pencil eraser. White or pale kid gloves were rubbed with white rose petals to remove yellowing, and not only did the petals remove the discolouring, but it gave an added protection against stains in the future. 

Straw bonnets were cleaned by using powdered brimstone, a powdered sulfur, but if they were no longer worth saving they could be completely recycled. First the hat could be sponged with soap and water, rinsed and air-dried. It can be stiffened with beaten egg white, dried in hot sun. If you want to reduce it down to fit a child, simply remove the border, and unpick the sewing on the rounds on the crown. Use a hat block to reform the rounds to the desired size, and rebuild a smaller brim. Brims can be reshaped through steaming. The egg white method can be used to stiffen once more.

The maid would also clean and perform minor repairs to jewellery and accessories. Broken tortoiseshell was held by hot pincers between sheets of paper. The tortoiseshell would fuse, plastic-like, back together. Gold was cleaned by boiling it in soapy water, then rubbing it in a cloth with magnesia powder. A soft brush could be used on embossed pieces. Pearls were cleaned by immersion in a mixture of water in which bran had been boiled, salt of tartar and alum. Rinse in lukewarm water, and leave to dry. Storing pearls in magnesia powder, rather than the box provided, ensured that the brilliance was maintained. 

Anyone thinking that the role of a lady's maid was easy, doesn't understand their repertoire of home-made cosmetics, hair dyes, and laundry-wonder. They were part seamstress, laundress, hairdresser, dresser, fashionista, and pharmacist. They had to keep up to date with current modes and styles, as well as identifying how best to style her mistress. I'll cover their makeup and beauty tips in my next post, but until then I hope you enjoy the tips of laundry and the accessories that helped keep the Victorian lady look her very best.  


“She hasn’t got the combination to the safe,” said the manager. “You can scare her as much as you want. We all know you’re not gonna use that gun on us.”

Rebecca’s breath halted as she felt a careless arm drape around her shoulder.

“I don’t need a gun to hurt someone. Give us the combination.” The manager remained mute and turned his face away. “Your call, sir.” He pulled Rebecca around to face him as she gasped in alarm. “Just remember who you’ve got to thank for this, ma’am.”

He pointed over at the manager, who refused to meet her eyes. “That man right there.”

“Anything that happens to her is down to you. Not me,” said the manager.

Rebecca felt herself dragged from the room by one arm. She was pulled into the office next door and pushed against the wall. The man walked over and pulled down the blind before returning to her. Her breath came in ragged pants of fear. “Please, no. Don’t.”

He leaned on the wall, a hand on either side of her head, and pressed his face close. “You were gonna hold this place up. Are you some kind of idiot?”

She blinked in confusion. “Huh?”

The man pulled down his mask, revealing the face of the fair man who had walked into her office looking for Fernsby. “Don’t lie to me, honey. You had the same idea as we did— look at Meagher’s bank account to see where he gets his money. We’ve watched you march up and down outside this place all day, like you were on sentry duty, while you built up your courage. You even got in the way of us doin’ it. What the hell is goin’ on in your head? How dumb can a woman get?”

“You? Here?” She couldn’t quite decide whether to stop being scared or not.

“Yeah. Me.” He indicated with his head. “Now, Nat’s in there, and he needs the combination of the safe. It’s too new and sophisticated for him to crack the combination. You and me need to put on a bit of a show to make sure the manager gives it up.”

“You’re not robbing the bank?”

Jake huffed in irritation. “Try to keep up, Becky. I need you to scream for help so the manager gives Nat the combination to the vault. We want Meagher’s records too.”

She shook her head. “Me? I can’t scream.”

“What do you mean you can’t scream? All women can scream.”

“I can’t. I’m just not made that way.”

He frowned. “Look, Becky. If you won’t scream, I’m gonna have to make you. Let’s do this the easy way, huh?”

“Please, help! Noooo.”

Jake frowned. “You call that screamin’? That’s useless.”

“I told you. I can’t.”

Jake flicked up an eyebrow. “Last chance, Becky.”


“Nope.” A gloved hand reached up to her hat as his eyes glittered with mischief. “Don’t say you weren’t warned, sweetheart.” 


Sunday, June 5, 2022

Denver City - June 4, 1861

 Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

Photo Property of the Author

June, the month of weddings, people getting together, socializing, and traveling. I began to wonder how that would have played out in the early days of the Rocky Mountain West. The one constant newspaper during that time was the Rocky Mountain News, so I went to see what they had to offer. Below are some of the 'articles' from June 4, 1861. Denver City was approximately two years old, and the area was still part of the Kansas Territory.

What I found fascinating in the marriage notice was how they 'gushed' about the groom and his accomplishments, with little said about the bride, other than her name. I do give them credit for waxing poetic with the quote. What do you think?

Denver City - June 4, 1861
Courtesy of The Rocky Mountain News (Daily)

Now we come to travel. Since this was a time of Westward Expansion, the paper is quick to note that while families were traveling to begin anew, their 'rival' paper was sending false reports about the troubles with the Indians. The Indian reports may or may not have been true, but the powers that be were aiming for Denver and surrounding areas to break off from Kansas Territory and have their own government closer to home.

Of course, we have to talk about getting together and socializing. As the snows were melting, some miners were planning to return to their claims. Others may have come out of the mountains and their claims, to restock their supplies. What better way than to take in a show. Entertainment was not only a great way to socialize it helped cut into the boredom and sameness of just trying to survive. Below is a 'review' of a recent show. Oh, to be a fly on the wall during the performance.

As you prepare for your summer, think about what you might have been doing on June 4, 1861. For me, I know I would have been part of the theatre group.

Until next month, take care, enjoy the summer, and happy writing.

Doris McCraw

Thursday, June 2, 2022

New Release The Sheriff (Friendly Creek Book 2) by Agnes Alexander


Friendly Creek Sheriff Buck Beaumont suddenly has his hands full when several strangers show up in his small town. Though this is usually a welcoming community, one of the newcomers, Sam Rayfield, doesn’t set well with sheriff, and Beaumont is not sure just why that is.

Those feelings become clearer when the town’s mayoral race takes off. Friendly Creek chooses sides between a well-respected, long-time resident and the smooth-talking Rayfield. It seems that Rayfield has more than becoming mayor as his goal—he also has marriage on his mind.

Wynona Murdock, the newly hired schoolteacher, revels in her new-found independence that comes with her job. But Sam Rayfield openly vies for her attention to the point of making her uncomfortable. Yet, how can she avoid him, maintain her independence—and stay safe?

With Rayfield’s subtle intimidation of the townspeople, Sheriff Beaumont gives him a warning he can’t ignore, and forces his hand. How does the arrival of these strangers connect them to one another, and to Rayfield? When murders begin to happen, it’s up to Beaumont to unravel the mystery and keep Wynona safe…or die trying.


Buck had just pulled the papers he wanted to work on out of the desk drawer when the peaceful morning was interrupted by a blast of gunfire.

Jumping up and heading out the door with his peacemaker in his hand, he saw immediately the bank was being robbed. Three men ran out and mounted their horses and spurred them into a fast gallop as they headed out of town. He fired, and one man tumbled from the saddle.

Hurrying to the bank as fast as his long legs would take him, Buck rushed inside with several men following him. He saw Clifford Daniels, the teller, lying in the lobby. He was moaning in agony, but Charlie had arrived and was headed to help him.

He then saw Jarvis Pearlman, the owner and president of the bank, leaning beside the safe with blood pouring from his shoulder. He waved in the direction of the other side of the room.

Buck’s head turned quickly to see a woman in the green printed dress crumpled on the floor. His heart came to his throat as he rushed and swept her up into his arms.

“Oh, God! No!” He screamed. “It can’t be you, Rebecca.”

Her eyes fluttered as she looked up at him and whispered, “Don’t grieve, my love. You made me happy.”

Then, she closed her eyes and died in his arms.