Tag Archives: Staunton Virginia

Historical Research and Colonial American Recipes


During my VAST research for historicals set in early America I came across a wealth of plant info and recipes.  An avid gardener, I love to grow herbs, heirloom flowers and vegetables.  To see, smell, touch and taste the same plants known to my ancestors is as rich a connection to the past as I can have, and I’m fascinated with those who’ve gone before me—a common thread in all my work; whether writing straight historical or paranormal romance, the past looms large.

The following nuggets are lifted from a slim volume I picked up at the nearby Museum of Frontier Culture located outside of historic Staunton, Virginia in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley where my family has lived for several hundred years.  By ‘frontier’ they mean colonial.  At one time, the valley and mountains were the colonial frontier, the setting for my Historical Romance Novel Red Bird’s Song.

The Good Land: Native American and Early Colonial Food by Patricia B. Mitchell

Vegetable Fritters:

1 c. flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1 tsp. melted butter, or margarine or oil

1 cup chopped and well drained cooked vegetables (such as carrots, corn, green beans, lima beans, mushrooms, peas, or a combination of).

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat egg and add milk and butter.  Add to flour mixture and beat until smooth.  Add vegetables. Drop by tablespoons into shallow hot fat (or oil) in skillet.  Fry for four minutes or until brown on all sides. Drain on absorbent paper.

“Pumpkin was one of the plentiful Indian crops for which the English soon ‘developed a necessary liking.’ The food has been described as the ‘fruit which the Lord fed his people with til corn and cattle increased.’

This old verse illustrates the early dependence of settlers in the New World upon pumpkins: “For pottage, and puddings, and custards, and pies. Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies. We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon; If it were not for pumpkins, we should be undoon.”

They cooked the fruit into a ‘gruel’ flavored it with butter, vinegar, and ginger. I would open the pumpkin and remove the seeds, then cut the flesh into pieces before cooking, but that direction isn’t included as it’s assumed you know that. Peeling is easier after it’s cooked.

An early recipe for ‘Pompkin Pie.’

“One quart milk, 1 pint pompkin, 4 eggs, molasses, allspice, and ginger in a crust, bake for 1 hour.”

If that recipe isn’t clear enough, here’s an old Mennonite pumpkin pie recipe. It assumes you grew your own pumpkins, of course, but you can substitute canned.

Pumpkin Pie:

1 1/2 cups cooked pumpkin, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 1/2 cups scalded milk, 3 eggs, separated

1/2 tsp. salt, 1 Tab. cornstarch, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1 tsp cloves

Pastry for one 9 inch pie crust.

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Cook pumpkin and rub through a sieve. Add beaten egg yolks, sugar, salt, cornstarch, and mix well. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.

Pour mixture into unbaked crust. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 350 and continue baking for 30 minutes.

*I reduced the milk by 1/2 cup.*I use good sized eggs

For more on the Virginia Frontier Culture Museum:

A fascinating and highly educational ‘living history’ site ideal for families, school field trips, and anyone with a passion for history .  To quote from their website:

” A Journey to the past…The Frontier Culture Museum tells the story of the thousands of people who migrated to colonial America, and of the life they created here for themselves and their descendants. These first pioneers came to America during the 1600s and 1700s from communities in the hinterlands of England, Germany, Ireland, and West Africa. Many were farmers and rural craftsmen set in motion by changing conditions in their homelands, and drawn to the American colonies by opportunities for a better life. Others came as unwilling captives to work on farms and plantations. Regardless of how they arrived, all became Americans, and all contributed to the success of the  colonies, and of the United States.

To tell the story of these early immigrants and their American descendants, the Museum has moved or reproduced examples of traditional rural buildings from England, Germany, Ireland, West Africa, and America. The Museum engages the public at these exhibits with a combination of interpretive signage and living history demonstrations. The outdoor exhibits are located in two separate areas: the Old World and America. The Old World exhibits show rural life and culture in four homelands of early migrants to the American colonies. The American exhibits show the life these colonists and their descendants created in the colonial backcountry, how this life changed over more than a century, and how life in the United States today is shaped by its frontier past.”

Somewhere My Lass Got A Fabulous Review From LASR!


Somewhere My Lass by Beth Trissel

Somewhere My Lass by Beth Trissel
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Fantasy/Time Travel, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full (222 pages)
Heat: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 Books
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Somewhere Book 2

Neil MacKenzie’s well ordered life turns to chaos when Mora Campbell shows up claiming he’s her fiance from 1602 Scotland. Her avowal that she was chased to the future by clan chieftain, Red MacDonald, is utter nonsense, and Neil must convince her that she is just addled from a blow to her head–or so he believes until the MacDonald himself shows up wanting blood.

Mora knows the Neil of the future is truly her beloved Niall who disappeared from the past. Although her kinsmen believe he’s dead, and she is now destined to marry Niall’s brother, she’s convinced that if she and Neil return to the past, all will be right. The only problem is how to get back to 1602 before it’s too late.

The balance of the present and future are in peril if she marries another, and the Neil of the present will cease to exist. An ancient relic and a few good friends in the future help pave the way back to the past, but will Mora and Neil be too late to save a love that began centuries before?

Mora has crossed centuries to find her lost love, Neil, but how can she convince him that they belong together in 1602?

Mora Campbell somehow manages to tumble through a time portal and lands in Virginia in 2009. There she finds a man who goes by the name Neil MacKenzie. Mora is sure that Neil is none other than her lost betrothed Niall. At first Neil doesn’t believe a word Mora says, but sooner rather than later the past catches up to them both in the form of Red MacDonald, who followed Mora through the portal. MacDonald has a long standing feud with the MacKenzies, and he won’t stop until Neil is dead.

Neil soon realizes that everything Mora has said is true and finds himself in a race against time. He must find a way to return Mora to the past before MacDonald finds them. One problem remains. Who will Mora marry; Niall of the past, or Neil of the present? Or are the two men really one and the same, as Mora says? In the short time that Neil has known Mora, he’s fallen in love with her and the thought of her marrying another man is unbearable. Will Neil surrender Mora to Niall, or will fate smile on the lovers and grant them a way to be together?

As a heroine, Mora is simply a delight. Adapting to life in the modern world presents many challenges. I couldn’t help but smile as Mora attempts to make sense of modern technology, fashion, and hygiene practices. Being thrust into modern life could have defeated Mora. A weaker soul would certainly have wilted under the pressure, but Mora possesses a fiery spirit that gives her the strength to face anything, including the dangers presented by Red MacDonald and the passage of time itself.

Neil’s milder personality is the perfect complement to Mora’s hot temperament. He is more than a little skeptical about Mora and her origins when she first arrives. However, once Neil learns the truth, he stands by Mora’s side like a true hero. In order to hold on to his newfound love, he’s going to have to learn to let go of his well-ordered life and take a leap of faith.

Not only is Somewhere My Lass a tale of romance, but it is also a story of friendship. Neil’s best friend, Fergus, is one of the most amusing secondary characters I’ve read in a long time. His bright orange hair and obsession with science fiction and technology made me smile throughout the story. Fergus is a friend in the truest sense of the word. He’s willing to follow Neil into the past to lend a hand, and his belt full of gadgets saves Neil’s life on more than one occasion.

I’m a fan of Ms. Trissel’s historical romances, so I was intrigued at the idea that her latest story would include the element of time travel. Somewhere My Lass, is book two in Ms. Trissel’s Somewhere series, but it is not necessary to read the previous book to enjoy this story. Once I started reading Somewhere My Lass, I found Ms. Trissel had masterfully blended the past and the present in order to create a lovely romance that spans centuries. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a touching tale of love and friendship.

More About The Story Behind Light Paranormal Romance Somewhere My Lass


SOMEWHERE MY LASS,  out May 26, 2010, is the next installment in my ‘SOMEWHERE’ series.  SOMEWHERE MY LASS was an intriguing tale to weave and will not, I trust,  disappoint.  I did my usual obsessive research, but I love gleaning more about the past, so that’s all good.  The hero and heroine, Neil and Mora, were vivid in my mind and a lot of fun to write.  The romance between them is one of the best I’ve ever written.  The chemistry just took off.

Interestingly enough, that’s not always the case.  Sometimes my H&H dislike each other intensely, or one resents the other.  Either I write my way through it until I uncover the live coals simmering beneath the ashes of their contempt, or seek out a different heroine.  Usually, I”m pretty set on the hero.  In the story I’m  working on now, he was dead set against the heroine until I dug a little deeper and realized she wasn’t who she seemed to be. 🙂

Maybe this inner dialogue writers have with their characters contributes to the reputation of our being rather eccentric, or shall we say crazy.  Those of you not given to this particular madness may assume I simply create my characters and have control over them.  No way.  I discover them, and get to know their likes and dislikes, what they would and wouldn’t do, all those quirks and foibles that make us unique human beings.  I offer direction and reason with them as to why the story needs to go a certain way, but have learned that the flow is much better, certainly more natural,  if I listen well to what they’re telling me.  And so, I talk amongst ‘myselves,’ which worries my mother a trifle.  But it’s an essential part of the creative process.  At least, for me.

Regarding my settings, up until SOMEWHERE MY LASS I’ve set all my stories in America, past and present.  This departure to Scotland was a challenge, but I drew deeply on my English Scots-Irish roots, which I’ve been doing all along.  Apart from the prominent Native American heroes and characters in my work, (Through the Fire, Red Bird’s Song, Daughter of the Wind) the others are all of English/ Scots-Irish backgrounds, with a smidgen of French.  My ancestors, too, have a smidgen of French in the meld.  Being a history buff I’ve read up on and watched numerous programs set in the British Isles, a favorite of mine.  I’m a British junkie, an anglophile, while equally preoccupied with early America.  But then America and Great Britain are both tied together, and were especially  linked in the colonial time period.

I’ve learned a great deal from my journey back to Bonnie Old Scotland and am pondering a sequel.  My editor assures me there must be one (or two).  I fell in love with the characters and new ones nudge at my mind.  After you read SOMEWHERE MY LASS you will guess who I am likely to feature.  🙂  Hint, his name begins with an F.

First though I must finish my WIP, my first historical romance set in England.  Again, an adventure to write and I’m learning a lot about England and France in 1789, the break out (big time!) of the French Revolution.  Heads weren’t rolling yet but the country was aflame and aristocrats fleeing or fighting to hold onto their estates.  No Scarlet Pimpernel on the scene yet, but I’ve always been fascinated with Sir Percy Blakeney.  We have a noble gray tabby named Percy.

A little more about the inspiration behind SOMEWHERE MY LASS.

As is often the case, the opening of light paranormal romance SOMEWHERE MY LASS was inspired by a dream, one that grabbed my attention and made me wonder where in the world do I go from here?  Inquiring minds like mine want to know the rest of the story and so I delved and plotted.  Even lay awake nights trying to recapture that dream.  Ultimately, this suspenseful time travel evolved from years of research into my distant Scottish roots and a long held fascination with the idea of actually being transported to the past, with a proviso that I can return to the present whenever the thrill wears off.   Say, by teatime. My characters are more adventurous than I.

Scottish Highlands pass at GlencoeCertainly, I was influenced by my beloved C S Lewis in his Chronicles of Narnia that I grew up reading.  I’m still looking for Narnia.  Isn’t everyone? Not to mention, movies like Back to the Future and Timeline, but I like to think, and my editor assures me, that I’ve achieved an original take on the oft visited time travel theme.  And no, I’ve not read author Diane Gabledon or other Scottish time travels so cannot be accused of those influences. I read little romance, investing much of my time in research and non-fiction.

Of course, my love for old castles and the Scottish highlands also lent inspiration. Many of the early Scots-Irish settlers to the Shenandoah Valley, my ancestors among them, chose to live here because of the resemblance the valley and mountains bore to Scotland & Ireland.  As near to home as they were likely to find in the New World.

The concept behind my SOMEWHERE series is that the story opens in modern day, so far my homestate of Virginia and I don’t see that changing, and then transports the reader SOMEWHERE else.  Either back to an earlier time in the same house, as in SOMEWHERE MY LOVE, or another place altogether, as in SOMEWHERE MY LASS.  Sounds simple enough, right?  But writing these stories isn’t.  I thought I’d never make it through ‘Lass’ but am thrilled that I did.   I hope you will be too.

Joshua Wilton House in Harrisonburg, VAhttp://joshuawilton.com/
“The Joshua Wilton House…is a superbsmall inn and restaurant” – The Sunday New York Times
“Joshua Wilton House offers guests an oasis of quiet charm and gracious living in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley.  In an elegantly restored Victorian home, Joshua Wilton House occupies a corner in the historic “Old Town” district of Harrisonburg, Virginia.”

I love this beautiful old home, part of the inspiration behind SOMEWHERE MY LASS I used a compilation of Victorian era Virginia homes, some of which I’ve lived in, for the mysterious house in historic Staunton Virginia where the story begins~

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Blurb: Neil MacKenzie’s well ordered life turns to chaos when Mora Campbell shows up claiming he’s her fiancé from 1602 Scotland. Her avowal that she was chased to the future by clan chieftain, Red MacDonald, is utter nonsense, and Neil must convince her that she is just addled from a blow to her head–or so he believes until the MacDonald himself shows up wanting blood. Mora knows the Neil of the future is truly her beloved Niall who disappeared from the past. Although her kinsmen believe he’s dead, and she is now destined to marry Niall’s brother, she’s convinced that if she and Neil return to the past, all will be right. The only problem is how to get back to 1602 before it’s too late. The balance of the present and future are in peril if she marries another, and the Neil of the present will cease to exist. An ancient relic and a few good friends in the future help pave the way back to the past, but will Mora and Neil be too late to save a love that began centuries before?

****

*The door to nowhere (or so Neil MacKenzie thought).

SOMEWHERE MY LASS is available in digital download from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, and other online booksellers.

Staunton Virginia, History And Ghosts


downtown_staunton_1The small Southern city of Staunton Virginia, my birthplace and prominent in my time travel romance Somewhere My Lass,  is very historic and the site of a ghost tour.

To quote The Shenandoah Vally Paranormal Society website:

http://www.valleyghosthunters.com/svpi1.htm

“Staunton, Virginia known as “The Queen City” of the Shenandoah Valley was founded in 1747 and named after Lady Rebecca Staunton, wife of the colonial governor of Virginia, William Gooch.   Staunton is located in the heart of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and is rich in history, some prosperous and some tragic.   Often times with history, left behind are many ghost stories and hauntings that still exist to this day.   From civil war haunts, a train wreck disaster of 1890, to unsolved murders, Staunton has had its share of traumatic events that continue to haunt us.”

For more about the ghost tour visit:

http://ghostsofstaunton.com/welcome.html

“The first stop on the tour is the train station where (Myrtle) Knox was fatally wounded after the sleeper car where her opera troupe was napping derailed. One of Knox’s legs was cut off below the knee, her left arm broken, her right shoulder dislocated and a piece of wood was buried in her thigh, severing the femoral artery and causing her to bleed to death. Knox’s spirit reputedly haunts the tracks and many eyewitnesses have reported seeing her peer in through the windows at the now-closed Pullman Restaurant, which also is an alleged paranormal hot spot.”

For more pics and info on the haunted train station:

http://www.spectralreview.com/2008/10/16/ghosts-of-staunton/

The Staunton Train Station

I’ve dined with my husband in the Pullman Restaurant and didn’t see any ghosts, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t overlook someone.  Haven’t noticed anything unusual on the train tracks either, but there is an odd feel to the place, difficult to put my finger on it.  Let’s just say Staunton came naturally to mind when looking around me for the ideal Virginia town to set my next light paranormal in.

The historic train station is picturesque and home to quaint businesses and The Depot Grille, a fabulous dining establishment.

When you enter the Grille you see an old brick wall covered with drawings torn from their paper tablecloths.

Patrons are given crayons to doodle with while they await their food and the best drawings left on the paper tablecloths are displayed in the entryway.  Not only childrens’ drawings, I might add.  Our friend Ed Keens once drew a fabulous castle that was chosen for such an honor.  We were proud. 🙂 An interesting aside; Ed went on to build his very own castle, seriously.  My son in law, Diron and his brother Ben (Trost Custom Homes) built it for him.  The castle isn’t in Staunton, but nearby Rockingham County. I’ve included a pic below but the castle is another story.

Back to the Depot Grille: I set one dynamic scene in Somewhere My Lass at the Grille and had a lot of fun with it.  The Depot Grille is one of my favorite places to visit so I know it well.  I hope those of you who read this suspenseful, light paranormal romance will enjoy this scene too.

The Depot Grille’s outstanding attraction is a 40 foot Victorian bar from a turn-of-the century luxury hotel.

The bar truly is spectacular.  The photograph doesn’t fully capture its magnificence, but it comes close.

Several movies have been filmed at the train station, among them the 1998 HallMark Hall of Fame production, The Love Letter.  My husband Dennis and I were both extras in it, but I alone am barely visible.  I was dressed as a humble country woman wearing a poke bonnet and waving while standing behind the hero and heroine as they kiss goodbye .

Being in that film was a hoot and we learned a lot about movie making.  Fascinating!  Our only objection is that the scene filmed at the train station supposedly takes place in Boston and we’re playing Northerners which goes against the grain of any true Southerner.

More on the movie below, back to historic Staunton, a very southern town:

The present Trinity Episcopal Church, built during the mid-1850s, has an extraordinary collection of stained glass windows; many created by Tiffany Studios.  It’s lofty architecture and striking spire soars above the other old buildings.

“Staunton has one architectural advantage over most of other small towns in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia: it escaped the Civil War unscathed. Many of its 18th and early 19th century homes and buildings still stand and are wonderfully preserved.

Scottish-Irish immigrant John Lewis and his family built the area’s first homestead in 1732, and most of Staunton’s early settlers were Scots-Irish.”

“The area of Staunton surrounding the railroad station is known as The Wharf, a curious name for a neighborhood that is nowhere near a wharf! In fact, the name is an historical one dating to the 19th century.

The warehouses in this neighborhood reminded people of buildings that you might see along a wharf. In Staunton’s case, the railroad acts in same manner as a wharf, and in fact, the neighborhood’s old warehouses really do look like those that one might see along the waterfront of a port city…since 1972 the Wharf Historic District has been on the National Register of Historic Places.”

Another little known tidbit about Staunton: “For 17 days in June of 1781, the Virginia State legislature met in Staunton, after being forced by British troops led by Major Tarleton to flee Richmond.

The building that served as Virginia’s capitol stood on the present site of Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Staunton. While meeting on this site, the legislature elected a new governor to replace Governor Thomas Jefferson. Members of the state legislature who were present included Patrick Henry and Daniel Boone.”

From:  http://www.visitstaunton.com/history.htm

*The Wharf pictured above

*Staunton is the site of the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace, below.

*Ed’s Castle below, built by Diron and Ben Trost

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I used to have YouTube clips from the  movie mentioned above, The Love Letter, that opened with a scene at the Staunton train station.  The old steam engine train pulled in, extras in period dress milling about.  The heroine, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, drove up in her carriage.  Beautiful shot. But YouTube took the videos down, so, oh well.

We actually missed this scene as Dennis and I were at costume in a trailer at a different location, but we heard all about it from other excited extras.  The clip I was in came later, as did the scene Dennis thought he was in, but for some weird reason, the director went with mostly close angle shots of the leads that left out many important local persons who made up the disappointed extras who later couldn’t find themselves in the movie.  Duh, dude, we were vital.

This next clip, that no longer exists, included the other train station scene where I appeared for a second behind the leads as they bid a sad farewell when the hero, played by Campbell Scott, dashed back to her.  That scene followed the part where he ran into the burning post office to mail a letter to her. He had a really good reason–thus the title of the film.