Ice Skating galore!

Posted Feb 20 2018, 3:05 pm

Since the Winter Olympics is in full swing, I thought I’d share THIS tidbit of Victorian history. Around & around & around they go, those lovely Victorian folks, young and old,  in their crinolines & oh-so-elegant finery.



Back then [like today] ice skating was an enchanting pastime, but we can all thank a dashing fella named Jackson Haines for the winter sport we now know as ‘Figure Skating’ …Yep, in the 1850s, he began combining his much-loved, on-ground dance movements with his second-love of ice skating. Of course, the details are more detailed, such as the ‘type’ of edgings he made in ice, etc…but suffice to say, this chap is known the world over as ‘The Father of Figure Skating’.


And now, as you watch the U.S. try to snag another gold medal in THIS sport, or even glide out onto the ice yourself, y’all can smile & do a twirl in Jackson Haines honor!









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The Upward Trail!

Posted Dec 30 2017, 2:08 am


Evening, all!!! Say hello to Jemima Morrell, a plucky woman from Yorkshire who had a spirit for true adventure. So much so that in 1863, at 31 years of age, she, along with three other lady friends, joined excursionist Thomas Cook on his FIRST guided tour of the Swiss Alps.

Fully corseted and swathed from head to toe in heavy garments, dark crinoline, lace-up boots and donning a parasol, Jemima looked more ready for a walk in the park than a traipse across the rugged Swiss Alps; in this instance the Mer de Glace in Chamonix, France.









According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “Jemima was one of 130 intrepid travelers to undertake the trip in 1863.

She belonged to the Junior United Alpine Club, a determined gang, to be sure, as five fellow members joined her on the Alpine adventure, including her younger brother, William. Their itinerary was grueling – awake at 4am every morning, went to bed late, and endured all weathers; all the while dressed in Victorian attire.


Some days the women walked 17 miles.” We know how tough the adventure was ’cause Jemima kept a diary, discovered by family members one hundred years later in 1963; the amazing account was published under the title: “Miss Jemima’s Swiss Journal: The First Conducted Tour of Switzerland”. So much for thinking those wily Victorians were…dare I say it? Fragile. 

Long live historical essays & the courageous ladies that filled their pages with passion. 





















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The Origins of Santa Claus!

Posted Dec 21 2017, 5:34 pm


Ah yes…the holiday season! I love this time o’ year! And whether y’all call this seasonal fellow Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, or St. Nick…we must first go alllll the way back to southwestern Turkey in the 4th century to find the roots of this most colorful character.

As the bishop of Myra, Listers, St. Nicholas was credited with doing a number of miracles. So much so, in fact, that when he died on December 6, 343, he left behind a legacy that would grow into a strong and beloved cult.

By the early 1500s, he was even given his own celebratory “feast day”.. But, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “…at about the same time Nicholas lived, Pope Julius I decided to establish a date for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. As the actual time of year for this event was unknown, the Pope decided to assign the holiday to December 25th. There had long been a midwinter festival  and the Pope hoped to use the holiday to Christianize the celebrations.”

Sooooo, the ‘feast day’ slid from the 6th to the 25th & a tradition around the world began as St. Nicholas supposedly visited homes on Christmas Eve. Children would place nuts, apples, sweets and other items around the house to welcome him. And all celebrating went smoothly, ’til the Reformation [a Protestant movement which began in 1517 & lasted ’til the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648] took hold of Europe & St. Nicholas’ popularity dropped in most countries, except in Holland where the saint was called “Sinter Klaas.”

After the tradition came to New Amsterdam, U.S. via the Dutch [New Amsterdam would later be renamed “New York”], their “Sinter Klass” evolved to “Sancte Claus”. Then, in 1809, following the Revolutionary War, author Washington Irving (of Sleepy Hollow fame 😀 ) included the saint in a comic piece called “History of New York City” which caught the notice of the New York Historical Society, and in 1810, they hosted their first St. Nicholas Dinner. Member and artist, Alexander Anderson, was commissioned to draw an image of the good Saint for the festivity, & his image reflected a religious St. Nick, BUT…he was also clearly depositing gifts in children’s stockings which were hung by a fireplace.

Cover of an 1883 edition of ‘The Night Before Christmas’ by Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863).

In 1823, author Clement Moore further expounded on this idea when he drafted a poem for his children which he called, A Visit from St. Nick [which has since became the now-famous poem, The Night Before Christmas], where the saint is depicted as a tiny man in colorful robes [blue & purple were the favored colors in the 1800s] atop a sleigh drawn by eight miniature reindeer [the Saami people of northern Scandinavia often used reindeer to pull their rigs as these animals were well adapted to cold climates with their heavy fur coats and broad, flat hooves for walking on snow] which fly him from house to house, where unseen he shimmies down the chimneys and shoves gifts into stockings hung by the fireplaces.

BUT, we must thank American artist Norman Rockwell for the red & white adornment of St. Nicholas in his painting, A Drum for Tommy, which appeared on the cover of The Country Gentleman in 1921. 


Then, THIS image was to become forevermore solidified in our hearts & minds when, in 1931, the Coca-Cola Bottling Company needed a seasonal ad to sell their product. They hired a painter named Hadden Sundblom who created the jolly ol’ Santa Claus we love best today.

So, there you go, my dearest readers, now you all know the real story of how Santa came to be… HO HO HOOOOOOOOO!!!!! <3 ~ Cindy /






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Posted Dec 9 2017, 10:01 pm


Every Christmas millions of folks ‘deck the halls’ & most include the ritual of hanging bright ‘n shiny baubles & ornaments to their lofty evergreen boughs. But, did y’all know ‘glass ornament hanging’ in the U.S. didn’t even begin until the early Victorian era. Yep, ’tis true. Of course, Christmas trees had already graced homes in Germany as far back as the 15th century & decorated with apples & pastries & cotton-stuffed items. And by the 1700s, that custom traversed the great sea with German & English immigrants to reach our colonial shores.


However, in 1841, the Christmas decorating ‘theme’ was about to change forever when Prince Albert of England, a father of two children by then & missing his own childhood traditions back in Germany [glass beads were first crafted by glassblower Hans Greiner in Lauscha, Germany], decided to decorate the balsam tree at Windsor Castle with his own momentos. Even Queen Victoria, upon seeing the glorious site of their bedecked holiday balsam all aglow with candles & candies, tiny cakes & paper chains, wrote in her diary, “…it is like a dream come true.” —


And from that Christmas forward, cherished heirlooms of glass-blown German ornaments caught the candlelight on a million or more evergreens near & far & Christmas trees would never be the same.






In 1870, the first American-made glass ornaments appeared, & in 1880, the salesman, Frank Winfield Woolworth, began selling glass Christmas ornaments at his Great Five Cent Store.


Now, his silver mercury baubles & other glass blown ornaments were affordable for all Americans to buy– & the rest, as they say, is history. Soon, other merchants began selling these shiny little holiday treasures & by the turn of the century the humble lil’ Christmas ornament topped $25 million in sales across America. Today, Christmas tree decorations rank second only to gift purchasing in U.S. seasonal sales. And so, as you’re placing those beloved little baubles on YOUR family’s tree this year, you can share the tale of how all this ornamentation began. Happy holidays, Coffee Klatchers. I truly LOVE this time o’ year.


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We wacky cruciverbalists!!!

Posted Dec 7 2017, 8:59 pm


Who else ‘sides me loves to work crossword puzzles? If y’all do, then you’re a CRUCIVERBALIST – Yep, the word means a crossword puzzle enthusiast. And those savvy, smart folks who compile our fun games are actually called ‘SETTERS’ – These setters employ wordplay gimmicks & themes to make their ‘solvers’ [that would be us – 😀 ] sweat!!!


The most prolific crossword ‘setter’ of all time is Roger Squires who has to date authored well over 75,000 puzzles.


But we must go allllll the way back to New York City in 1900, for the whole story. That’s when a man named Arthur Wynne left Liverpool, England & onion farming to learn journalism in America. Upon arriving on U.S. shores, he found work at Joseph Pulitzer’s [yes, THAT man, who upon his death, bequeathed $2Million to Columbia University & they created the Pulitzer Prizes for literature in 22 categories in his honor] newspaper called The New York WORLD [founded in 1860 & purchased by Pulitzer in 1883].



Inspired by the ancient word game Satar Squares [first played in 1AD Pompeii – a tablet reflecting this is one of the few items that survived the Mt. Vesuvius explosion], which read the same backward as forward, Wynne expanded on the simple game/idea & decided to provide ‘clues’ for what word he wanted in a certain empty space.


VOILA!! The first crossword, a diamond-shaped pattern one, appeared on December 21st, 1913 under the heading of WORD CROSS PUZZLE. But a typesetting error by Pulitzer reversed the words to CROSS WORD PUZZLE & an instant hit was born.


Then, in 1924, two young & fervent cruciverbalist journalist friends, decided to enter the publishing world. They asked the New York World to compile a group of Wynne’s puzzles together so they could make a ‘book-of-sorts’ out of them. Of course, Pulitzer & Wynne complied. And soon the very first Crossword puzzle booklet, with a pencil attached, was released by the brand new Simon & Shuster publishing ‘group’…Rave reviews followed & in the spring of 1942 even the competition, The New York Times, began printing up a crossword puzzle – & now THEIR puzzle remains, to this day, the most difficult one to solve. So, Klatchers, that’s how the whole madness began! Woohoo…Now, if only I could solve today’s 2 across!

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Upcoming Booksignings

Posted Jul 31 2017, 7:30 pm

Heads-up to all my COLORADO pals. I’m booksigning TWICE in your great state this fall! The first location on Sat., Oct. 7th at the B&N in FORT COLLINS, CO — & the second location on Sun., Oct. 8th at the B&N in BOULDER, CO – Both spots from 1-3 p.m.

So save those dates & come see me!! I’d love to say hello!!!

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Books…Glorious Books!

Posted May 23 2017, 5:17 pm

Y’all know me & history, right?…Well, New York City is crammed full of the good stuff. By the second half of the 19th century, the Big Apple had already surpassed Paris in population & was nipping at London’s heels [then the world’s most populous city], but on THIS May 23rd day in 1911, the largest marble structure ever built in the U.S. opened to the public: THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY…with more than one million books slid on the shelves for the official dedication.

Books, glorious books!

And nearly 50,000 visitors streamed through the front doors that first day to touch ’em. And what was the first thing checked out you may wonder? Well, ’twas author N. I. Grot’s “Ethical Ideas of Our Time, a study of Friedrich Nietzsche and Leo Tolstoi.” Today, NYC libraries are 92 strong & include 4 research centers & dozens of neighborhood libraries throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. AND today, over 18 million patrons walk through its front doors annually; plus, the NYC Library’s website has 32 million visits each year from more than 200 countries. And everything stuffed inside this building, listed at #7 on the prestigious list of Top Ten Libraries in the world, is absolutely free to look at! In fact, the Library has just one criterion for admission: CURIOSITY! Yep, that’s it…& all built upon the foundation of a love for reading — Indeed, how very glorious…



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Diamonds a’plenty!!

Posted May 16 2017, 3:18 pm

Ahh yes…the DIAMOND — so full of sparkle & fire. And as we all know, these days, diamonds serve as a reflection of everlasting love. But THAT concept…the diamond engagement/wedding connection…was actually ‘created’ back in the 1930s by advertising executives to sell their overstock of diamond stones.

In ancient times, the diamond’s primary function, & the very reason one adorned themselves with said stone, was to ward off insanity with its bright & dynamic karat-charged powers. In fact, the word DIAMOND literally translates to “vajra” or “lighting” in Sanskrit [lightning being the choice weapon of the Gods].

Oh, & for the record, diamond tiaras should NOT be confused with crowns. “Anyone can wear a tiara, assuming it’s the right occasion.

Crowns, however, connote state power,” pointed out royals expert Arianne Chernock, an associate professor of history at Boston University. But, I’ll save that tiara/crown significance for another lil’ historical snippet.  


Nonetheless, when we slip on that diamond ring, or settle diamond studs in our ears, we can now know we’re channeling our powerful ‘vaira’ … ’cause after all, diamonds ARE a girl’s best friend…& there’s no madness about that delightful truth. HA!







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Let’s be GOATS!!! ☺

Posted Apr 22 2017, 5:31 pm

Hey everyone [& ‘specially my writing pals], on Earth Day [or ANY day for that matter] let’s all be GOATS! Yep, goats. Why? Because emotional depths [in a novel] is what truly brings our characters to life–right? Well, for me, anyway. And tragedy or not, the highs & lows of a hero/heroine is exciting to write AND read. Speaking of ‘tragedy’…did y’all know the word originally meant “goat song?” — Yep, ’tis true.

In Grecian mythology, tragedies were known as “goat-songs” ’cause the prize in their Athenian writing contests or plays was usually a LIVE GOAT.  According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “…the Romans knew Dionysus later as Bacchus, god of all things ‘bacchanalian’: in other words he freed people from their normal self through madness, wine, and ecstasy. Sometimes the goat would be sacrificed, and a goat lament sung as the sacrifice was made. Hence the ‘goat-song’ [albeit: tragedy] became intertwined with Greek plays.”

Also, many actors/actresses in the plays dressed in goat-costumes [as satyrs — half-goat beings that worshipped and surrounded Dionysus in his revelry]. So…regardless of what you write or whether your local goat friend sings good OR bad…the ultimate outcome is guaranteed a ‘tragedy’ … LOL. See? I love tidbits of history; I want to write like a goat. WooHoo …




The Gardens of Emily Dickinson

Posted Mar 21 2017, 7:34 pm


SPRING has surely sprung…and since we’re on that wonderment of nature, I’d love to chat about Emily Dickinson! Yes, THAT renowned poet with a unique expression that still seems fresh even today.

However, during her lifetime (December 10, 1830 to May 15, 1886), she was known more for her beautiful spring gardens than her remarkable talent with the written word. Indeed, as other Victorians at the time, Emily was fascinated with the language of flowers as well as their symbolic meanings — and she liberally used them as metaphors throughout her poetry. 


Her private gardens were breathtaking, and her knowledge of each bloom within quite intimate. Granddaughter of the cofounder of Amherst College and daughter of a respected lawyer and one-term congressman, Emily was educated at Amherst (Mass.) Academy and Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. She spent virtually all her life, the later years growing increasingly reclusive, in her family home & gardens in Amherst, or at The Evergreens, the poet’s brother, Austin’s, home — which today still preserves an integral part of Emily Dickinson’s private world. Both locations are an impressive “time capsule” of this remarkable woman and her impact in the 19th-century . By 1870, though, Emily was dressing only in white and declining to see most visitors.


Regardless her reclusiveness, she loved the gardens of her world and treasured every bloom. Of her nearly 1,800 poems, only 10 are known to have been published during her lifetime. Her complete works were published in 1955, and she has since become universally regarded as one of the greatest American poets.




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