Friday, June 2, 2017

Herbal Recipes for Fragrant Potpourri and Toilet Water


Here are some potpourri making tips from my own experience and recipes from a charming book, Potpourri, Incense and other Fragrant Concoctions by Ann Tucker Fettner.  Amazon has some used copies. The toilet water recipes follow below.

For making fragrant potpourri:

Begin in the spring by drying rose petals, an essential ingredient. Other flowers such as bachelor buttons, asters, straw flowers and statice add color. Any blossoms that dry well can be used. Mints, lavender, and lemongrass are excellent herbs for fragrance. Save the peelings from citrus fruit. Additional scent comes from manufacturers who sell potpourri supplies.

Order ground orris root, lavender, and essential oils. Sachet bags can be made from circular scraps of breathable fabric all tied up with ribbons. Decorative jars also make attractive holders. Baskets filled with fragrant sachets are an appealing presentation if fund-raising is your goal.


After you’ve collected and dried an ample quantity of blossoms and herbal leaves, mix in your other ingredients. Use a large bowl, not plastic, but ceramic or pottery. To hold the scent, you will need a fixative, often calamus or orris root. Generally, you use a tablespoon of a fixative for every quart of dried material. Add any spices you’ve chosen, cinnamon bark broken fine, rubbed mace, ground cardamom seeds, by sprinkling them over the petals and fixatives. If you like, add the crushed citrus peel, maybe some crumbled vanilla bean, and mix well with your hands.


The ingredients must be absolutely dry or the blend will molder. To all of this, add your favorite essential oils, rose, lavender, geranium, or tincture of musk or amber. Experiment with different blends. Don’t combine all the oils in the same batch. The possibilities are endless.

When you’re satisfied that the mixture is well blended, let it age in a crock for several weeks. Don’t have a crock? Brown paper grocery bags will do. Store the mixture out of sunlight in an airy corner or attic. Stir occasionally, then package prettily and enjoy.

For making Herbal toilet water:

lavender oil 2

Basic Toilet Water: To three pints of pure alcohol add one and one-quarter ounces of lavender oil, three-quarters ounce of oil of bergamot, three-quarters ounce of tincture of ambergris. Mix together and bottle. 

Rose Water: Boil two quarts of distilled water and remove from the stove. Add one-eighth ounce of rose oil, four drops of clove oil, and one pint of alcohol. Let this stand for several days before bottling.Geranium Water: To two pints of pure alcohol add four ounces of rose water, five drops tincture of musk, one ounce tincture of orris root and one ounce of geranium oil. Allow to age.

Geranium Water: To two pints of pure alcohol add four ounces of rose water, five drops tincture of musk, one ounce tincture of orris root and one ounce of geranium oil. Allow to age.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ever Schnellisched Anybody?

To schnellisch someone, say a naughty child, means to give them a quick flick using your thumb and forefinger--a mild, but attention grabbing reprimand. I learned this Pennsylvania Dutch expression from my Mennonite mother-in-law. My husband, Dennis, suggested I give Puppy Cooper a schnellisch when he vociferously refused to stop chewing on my hand while I crawled around wiping the kitchen floor. I didn't, but that's how common this term is in our household. 

(Up the road from our farm) 

My mother-In-Law has dementia but remembers old expressions and ways of doing things, like boiling up her wash in a big kettle before they got a washing machine, and it would have been a primitive model. I'm researching early Mennonites for a ghostly time travel romance back to the Civil War era in the Shenandoah Valley. Dennis comes from a long line of German/Swiss Mennonites who settled in our lush valley about the time my Scots-Irish ancestors did, the early-mid 1700's, but at opposite ends. The two groups didn't intermingle much until our generation. We were high school sweethearts, and I joined the New Order Mennonite church when we were engaged soon after my graduation. We married young. I've learned there are MANY orders of Mennonites and he's related to them all, but my Presbyterian roots are strong. I'm a part of this community, and yet apart. Many of our neighbors are Old Orders and buggies frequently trot past our farm. They are good people. 

 (Buggies going past our farm)

One of Dennis' Shank ancestors had a house and barn burned during Sheridan's infamous march into the valley, the autumn of 1864, when he burned and plundered 'the breadbasket of the Confederacy.' Most Mennonites were Union sympathizers, considering secession to be treason. Not a popular view in the south. They didn't own slaves, against their beliefs, plus they were pacifists, so refused to fight in the war, but they suffered along with everyone else when Sheridan laid waste to the land. A lot of barns, mills, and some homes went up in flames. Sheridan said a crow would have to pack his lunch to fly from one end of the valley to the other, as little food as the Union army left in its fiery wake. Sheridan didn't care what side folk were on.The suffering that followed his visitation was terrible. The valley was already hard hit by the war. No one who lives here and knows our history would ever name their son Sheridan. I can't imagine how people survived except to hunt and gather from what was left and what they'd managed to hide. My ancestors were here then, too. They left letters and journals about the horrors of war on their doorstep, 'the enemy in our land', and the challenges of daily life. My Virginia forebears fought vigorously for the Confederacy, but that's another story. Back to the Mennonites.

 (Old Order Mennonite Church up the road from us)

While doing my research, I learned many Mennonites and other plain people, such as the Dunkard Brethren and Quakers, ran what they called the Unionist Underground Railroad (separate from the famous one for helping slaves escape). This operation was kept hush hush as they were at constant risk of incurring the wrath of their Confederate supporting neighbors. Sadly, some did. There were murders, burnings, robberies... But Mennonite men who couldn't afford to buy their way out of service in the Confederate Army, or when that was no longer an option, and didn't believe in sending someone to fight in their place, had no choice other than to flee. The Unionist Underground Railroad offered shelter and food in sympathetic homes, called depots, to dissenters until they were guided to mountain hideouts. If the escapees made it to Keyser, West Virginia, they took a train north. If they wanted to remain near their valley families, they hid in the mountains, with furtive trips home, for the duration of the war. They had to hide and hunt or await whatever food family members brought them while watching for Confederate scouts. These guys were ever on the lookout for deserters and draft dodgers and shot them on sight. Several groups of fugitive men were captured and put in Castle Thunder Prison in Richmond where many died. Not a great war to be a conscientious objector. Union sympathizers from some of the non pacifistic denominations also took part in this Underground Railroad but it was mostly Mennonites and similar faiths. No one knows for certain how many men they helped escape, likely hundreds, maybe more, and not only from the valley but also farther south.

 (More buggies at the church)

Stonewall Jackson was willing to allow dissenters to serve in a non-military capacity. However, Mennonite men refused to support the Confederate war effort period. Jackson then suggested farming and feeding people might qualify as service, but he left the valley after his brilliant campaign in the spring of 1862. Tragically, he was killed in May, 1863.

Until fairly recently, few knew about the existence of the Unionist Underground Railroad. Evidence came to light after the discovery of petitions the federal government allowed citizens to file for compensation of goods, cattle, horses, barns, etc, lost during the conflict. Two conditions must first be met in order to qualify, and most folk didn't. They had to have lost their possessions due to Union not Confederate troops, and prove they were loyal to the Union. This was tough to do when men were threatened with hanging if they didn't vote for secession 'out loud' (no secret ballot) when the vote was taken to determine Virginia's fate. Few men dared to vote no. Of the handful who did, some were hauled back and forced to change their votes. Many Union sympathizers hid and didn't vote at all. Because petitions for compensation were confidential, thousands of Mennonites recounted their plights and pleaded their cases. Hints of the existence of these petitions led to their unearthing in Washington, DC where the records were kept. This find revealed much about the happenings during the war. Otherwise, the Union Underground R.R. wasn't ever spoken of after the war ended, not even with family, for fear of reprisals from resentful neighbors. The descendants of these Civil War Mennonites were unaware of what took place. No doubt, Dennis has ancestors who were part of this secretive operation. He's related to everybody.  

(Old Order Outing In the woods)

***Husband Dennis took all the images.

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Our May Garden

May is the wackiest, loveliest month, swinging from soaring heat to frigid cold. Now that the month is almost over, seasonable temps have arrived, and we've gotten some nice rain. Despite this roller coaster weather, most of the plants survived.
We grow hardy perennials, reseeding heirlooms, wildflowers (some might be called weeds), herbs...greens, especially Swiss chard, and a forest of dill. It's possible I accidentally planted two seed packets. We're reluctant to thin the excess as swallowtail butterfly caterpillars feed on the ferny foliage. Much of the dill is left to bury whatever else we had in that vicinity. Carrots, maybe...beets...  Some of the adult butterflies are soaring about the garden(s).
(Image of Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar and ladybug below taken today)
(Black Swallowtail on Bee Balm from a past summer)
Our garden is not carefully planned, and exists as much for the bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects as for us. We have a lot of ladybugs, lacewings, baby praying mantis, hover flies that resemble honey bees but are beneficials...and I'm not sure what, but a lot of good bugs to battle the bad. The plants often determine what grows. Those that do well tend to be takeover varieties, requiring some management.  By August it's a jungle. Every single year. But this spring we've  mulched with a lot of hay, made valiant attempts at order. We even mulched many of the flower beds with bark like other people do, leaving spots for the reseeding flowers to do their thing, and make frequent rounds to pull out weeds, thistles, etc. But the 'etc.' has a way of overcoming all. Perhaps it's best to do what we can and glory in the untamed beauty. We rarely achieve tamed.
(Swiss Chard with Peas behind below)
Weather means more when you have a garden. There's nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans. ~Marcelene Cox
My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant's point of view. ~H. Fred Dale (Thanks, Anne)
Gardening requires lots of water — most of it in the form of perspiration. ~Lou Erickson
The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there. ~George Bernard Shaw, The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God, 1932
Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it. ~Author Unknown
God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done. ~Author Unknown
I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from and Old Manse
Gardens are a form of autobiography. ~Sydney Eddison, Horticulture magazine, August/September 1993
The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses. ~Hanna Rion
Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity. ~Lindley Karstens,

You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt. ~Author Unknown
How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence. ~Benjamin Disraeli
The garden is the poor man's apothecary. ~German Proverb
(Heirloom peony)
Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination. ~Mrs. C.W. Earle, Pot-Pourri from a Surrey Garden, 1897 (Thanks, Jessica)
No two gardens are the same. No two days are the same in one garden. ~Hugh Johnson
(Happy Coreopsis)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Why I Wrote Time Travel Romance Somewhere My Lady (Ladies in Time)

Edith's Theme, the hauntingly beautiful song from Crimson Peak, stirred this story in me long before I watched the movie, which was after I finished the book. I purposely waited until then before viewing the film. Other songs in the soundtrack also sent my imagination soaring, but that one really did. Scenes took shape in my mind, especially the ghostly dance I wrote in chapter one. I couldn't have conceived Somewhere My Lady without this music. Some songs do that for me, but music isn't the only inspiration behind the story.
Old homes have always drawn me. I've lived in them most of my life, and visited plenty. Our farm-house was built in the 1870's. Think about it, families filled these homes with the emotions accompanying the events taking place in their lives. The walls witnessed their sagas, good and bad, and absorbed the energy. Old homes exude an indefinable sense of place. Even if I closed my eyes, I would know where I am, depending on how familiar I am with a house. Scents and hearing also play a part in this intuition, but the energy, whether positive or negative, flows from a home. A much lived in home is never really empty. Perhaps the spirits of those who once dwelt there come back and visit, or they leave a part of themselves behind. I don't know, but I like a good ghost story.
Harrison Hall, the colonial era home in Somewhere My Lady, is loosely based on Shirley Plantation, a magnificent 18th century home, built along the James River in Virginia. In the story, this wonderful manor sized house is a paranormal hot spot, concealing a deadly mystery Hart and Lorna must solve.
Story Blurb: 
Lorna Randolph is hired for the summer at Harrison Hall in Virginia, where Revolutionary-War reenactors provide guided tours of the elegant old home. She doesn't expect to receive a note and a kiss from the handsome young man who then vanishes into mist.
Harrison Hall itself has plans for Lorna – and for Hart Harrison, her momentary suitor and its 18th century heir. Past and present are bound by pledges of love, and modern science melds with old skills and history as Harrison Hall takes Lorna and Hart through time in a race to solve a mystery and save Hart's life before the Midsummer Ball.~
Somewhere My Lady is out on 7-12-2017. Preorder in kindle at:

If you're interested in my other time travel romances, they're  in kindle at:
***Somewhere My Lady is similar to Somewhere My Love but different.

Friday, May 12, 2017

I Got A New Puppy. The End.

(Cooper--a Morkie puppy)
If you've ever had a new puppy, you know what I'm talking about. The end of life before puppy (BP) breaks loose. In this case, his name is Cooper, so it's BC. Has a biblical ring to it, but his whole name is Special Agent Dale Cooper from the eccentric FBI agent in Twin Peaks. Daughter Elise got me into the show. Back to Puppy Cooper. Oh my gosh, what a week it's been. First, we had the never-ending car ride there and back (back was twice as long) to get the little guy on Sunday. Cooper is from South Carolina. We live in Virginia. Traffic was bad. Toward the end, I was singing the lyrics to the Sloop John B (Beach Boys), especially this bit:
'Let me go home
Why don't they let me go home
This is the worst trip I've ever been on.'
We finally made it home, and Cooper has a nice puppy playpen setup instead of a crate. I call it base camp, and it has his bed, toys, water, pee pad.. He tolerates it pretty well, except for those incensed occasions when he doesn't. The family all love him and have descended in adoring droves. But after everyone leaves, he looks around to ask 'where did they all go?' Yep. He's a tad spoiled.
I badly needed a little friend after my dear Sadie died of congestive heart failure about the time Cooper was born. He just turned nine weeks old. He's already touchingly devoted to me, and declares in every way possible, that I am his person. At the moment, he's also a chewy little dog who wants the run of the house but isn't housebroken yet. Plus, as often happens to pups with the stress of moving to a new home, he got an upset tummy. This has resulted in a lot of extra cleanups, worry, phone calls to the vet, and a trip to the clinic. He's now on a special diet, probiotics, and medication. So far--knock wood--he's better today. Cooper is a Morkie--a Yorkie Maltese mix, but more Yorkie than Maltese. These pups are especially prone to tummy upset.
I've lined the couch with bedding so he can play up and down the length of it while I'm on my laptop--during those occasions when he's not trying to eat it. And he loves to sit with me, which is good, because that will be his job. Sadie has passed the torch to this tiny boy. I still miss her terribly. Part of me always will. But I am glad for my new buddy, despite all the work of a new puppy.
Welcome little Cooper. You are finding your place in my heart.

Monday, May 1, 2017

'The Darling Buds of May'

2Flowering Crab
As a child growing up during the 19th century, or so it sometimes seems, I remember placing baskets of flowers as a surprise on friend’s doorstep early on a lovely May Day morn. Also, dancing around the May Poll festivities in which, not I, but my younger brother and sister both participated. The little girls with garlands in their hair, decked out in pretty spring dresses. Mom made my sister’s. One year the wind toppled the May Poll and then there’s the time the children got all wound up in the ribbons and over it went.  Humiliating for my young brother who’d practiced so hard and tried to no avail to instruct his fellow dancers to wind them properly. I never did trust that May Poll thing to go as planned and hoped to be crowned May Queen, surrounded by a glad assembly of courtiers. No such luck. But May Day was special and has strong flowery associations in my memory. And wind. It never entered anyone’s mind that this revelry had possible pagan connotations. May Day festivities were simply a spring rite and good fun. (*Flowering crab apple tree in our yard)
How about the rest of you? Any May Queens among us?

“May 1st, often called May Day, just might have more holidays than any other day of the year. It’s a celebration of Spring. It’s a day of political protests. It’s a neopagan festival, a saint’s feast day, and a day for organized labor. In many countries, it is a national holiday. (Royalty free image of birch tree)
Celtic calendar feast ushering in the start of summer. (It also went by a variety of other spellings and names in assorted dialects of Gaelic.)
Bonfires, often created by rubbing sticks together, were common features of Beltane celebrations. Related rituals included driving cattle between two fires, dancing around the fires, and burning witches in effigy. Another tradition was Beltane cakes, which would be broken into several pieces, one of which was blackened. They would be drawn by celebrants at random; the person getting the unlucky blackened piece would face a mock execution.
In recent years, Beltaine has been adopted or revived by neopagan groups as a major seasonal festival.
Bringing in the May: *This is more what I remember.  :)
In medieval England, people celebrated the start of spring by going out to the country or woods “going a-maying” and gathering greenery and flowers, or “bringing in the may.” This was described in “The Court of Love” (often attributed to Chaucer, but not actually written by him) in 1561. Totally irrelevant, but I am a direct descendant of Chaucer on my father’s side.

(Iris and poppies image by my mom)
“And furth goth all the Court, both most and lest,
To feche the floures fressh, and braunche and blome;
And namly, hawthorn brought both page and grome.
With fressh garlandes, partie blewe and whyte,
And thaim rejoysen in their greet delyt.”
Another English tradition is the maypole. Some towns had permanent maypoles that would stay up all year; others put up a new one each May. In any event, the pole would be hung with greenery and ribbons, brightly painted, and otherwise decorated, and served as a central point for the festivities.
May Day was also a time for morris dancing and other dances, often around the maypole. In the 19th century, people began to braid the maypole with ribbons by weaving in and out in the course of a dance. Other later traditions include making garlands for children and the crowning of the May Queen.”
From an interesting site: Herbal Musings
Beltain, Bealtaine, Beltine, May Day, Cetsamhain (‘first Samhain‘), Walpurgis Night (Beltane Eve), Celtic ‘Flower Festival’
Druidic Name: Beltane
archangel-michael, old stained glass windowChristian Equivalent
Roodmas, Rood Day, Feast of Saint Philip and Saint James, Feast of Saint Walpurga
Beltane is the cross-quarter festival that marks the start of the summer quarter of the year and the end of the spring quarter. This is a time when nature blossoms and felicity and fertility return to the land. In times past, the livestock stockaded at Samhain was returned to summer pastures at Beltane.
…a joyful festival of growth and fecundity that heralds the arrival of summer. It is the festival of the ‘Good Fire’ or ‘Bel-fire’, named after the solar deity Bel. Bel was also known as Beli or Bile in Ireland, with Bile meaning ‘tree’, so Beltane may also mean ‘Tree-fire’. Beltane is the counterpart of Samhain (and is sometimes referred to as Cetsamhain, the ‘first Samhain’), and these two important festivals divide the year into summer and winter halves, just as the two equinoctial celebrations, Ostara and Mabon, divide the year into light and dark halves.
Lighting fires was customary at Beltane, and traditionally a Beltane fire was composed of the nine sacred woods of the Celts. All hearth fires were extinguished on Beltane Eve and then kindled again from the sacred “need fires” lit on Beltane. People would leap through the smoke and flames of Beltane fires and cattle were driven through them for purification, fertility, prosperity and protection.
AngelicaIt is a traditional time for Handfastings (marriages), and for couples to make love outside to bless the crops and the earth. Maypoles were often danced around at Beltane to bring fertility and good fortune. Beltane lore also includes washing in May-day dew for beauty and health, and scrying (peeping) in sacred waters, such as ponds or springs.
The festival is sometimes referred to as Roodmas, a name coined by the medieval Christian Church in an attempt to associate Beltane with the Cross (the Rood) rather than the life-giving symbol of the Maypole. Beltane was also appropriated by the Church as the Feast Day of Saint Walpurga, who was said to protect crops and was often represented with corn.”
(*Royalty free images of the Archangel Michael and the sacred herb Angelica)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New Time Travel Romance-Somewhere My Lady (Ladies in Time Book 1)

I'm excited to share more about Somewhere My Lady, my upcoming release from The Wild Rose Press, and my new Ladies in Time Series.
Each story in the series features strong young women who find romance amid adventure, mystery, and more than a touch of the paranormal. There's also carefully researched history in the stories. I don't toss my characters back in time without knowing the specifics of where they're landing, and sometimes the history comes to them. A second title, The White Lady, will be out for the holidays as it has a Christmas theme, but back to book one. As usual with my time travel romances, the setting is a wonderful old home.
Somewhere My Lady blurb:
Lorna Randolph is hired for the summer at Harrison Hall in Virginia, where Revolutionary-War reenactors provide guided tours of the elegant old home. She doesn't expect to receive a note and a kiss from the handsome young man who then vanishes into mist.
Harrison Hall itself has plans for Lorna – and for Hart Harrison, her momentary suitor and its 18th century heir. Past and present are bound by pledges of love, and modern science melds with old skills and history as Harrison Hall takes Lorna and Hart through time in a race to solve a mystery and save Hart's life before the Midsummer Ball.~
Lovely cover by cover artist Debbie Taylor.
***Stay tuned for the release date (TBD but not long) and sign up on my blog for my email list. Who knows? I might even get a newsletter together and give something away. Or get my secretary to do it. Peaches and Cream are slackers. That's what happens when you have cats for publicists.
***If you're interested in reading any of the time travels I've already written, visit Amazon at: