Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Colonial Christmas Traditions Part 2


Good bread and good drink, a good fire in the hall
Brawn, pudding and souse, and good mustard withall:
Beef, mutton and pork, shred pies of the best:
Pig, veal, goose and capon and turkey well drest:
Cheese, apples and nuts, jolly carols to hear,
As then in the country is counted good cheer.”
Thomas Tusser (c. 1520-1580)

“Christmas is come, hang on the pot,
Let spits turn round, and ovens be hot;
Beef, pork, and poultry, now provide
To feast thy neighbors at this tide; 
Then wash all down with good wine and beer, 
And so with mirth conclude the Year.”
Virginia Almanac (Royle) 1765

These two poems were written far apart in years and distance, but it shows that many of the traditions you enjoy today were brought over by your former country-ruling patrons, the English. Many of these traditions in revelry, manners, dress and society kept true for about 200 years, especially in Virginia. Even despite the conflict that erupted in 1775 could not erase these memories of “home”, the mother land, England, with dancing and feasting the central part of the holidays.

Captain John Smith, whose life was saved by the young girl who loved him, Pocahontas (though she ended up marrying John Rolfe of Virginia), wrote in 1609 that he kept “Christmas amongst the Savages: where wee were never more merrie, nor fedde on more plentie of good oysters, fish, flesh, wild fowle, and good bread, nor better fires in England then in the drie warme smokie houses of Kecoughtan.” (Kecoughtan is now part of Hampton, by the way.)

Seventy years later, in December of 1680, twenty-one visitors entered William Fitzhugh’s home. A Frenchman was among them, who later wrote, “There was good wine and all kinds of beverages, so there was a great deal of carousing.” Fitzhugh provided for entertainment “three fiddlers, a jester, a tight-rope walker, and an acrobat who tumbled around.”

Here are two recipes you can try out this season, if you’re feeling adventurous. First, in the spirit of Captain John Smith who spent the winter with the native American people, I give you a recipe for wild rice that I have used myself. Wild rice was considered “a great gift” for the aboriginal people and it was treasured for its versatility, taste and nutritional value.

WILD RICE DRESSING
1½ c. Wild Rice
½ lb. cornbread, day old & cubed
1 c. Onions, (wild onions or chives if you want to be strict about tradition) chopped
1 c. root vegetables like lily roots and wild carrots, chopped, (or regular carrots and add celery)
½ c. animal fat (or butter if that grosses you out), melted
1½ c. partridge or wild turkey stock (or chicken), hot
½ tsp. Salt
½ tsp. wild Sage (Or domestic if you can’t find it

1. Prepare wild rice according to package directions.
2. Sauté root vegetables until tender in animal fat or butter.
3. Combine  with cooked wild rice and cornbread cubes.
4. Toss lightly with melted butter, seasonings and stock to moisten ingredients well.
5. Bake in uncovered pan at 350º F for 1 hour.
6. Use as a stuffing in pork chops, acorn squash or partridge bird (I have used cornish hens, not able to "hunt down" any partridge).

And here is a traditional drink carried over by those Colonialists who actually celebrated the holidays and to this day is still enjoyed by many, This is an ancient recipe dating from 12th Century England.

COLONIAL HOT CIDER PUNCH, AKA "WASSAIL"
1 Gallon heated apple cider
1/2 ounce brandy
1/2 ounce rum flavoring OR (even better) 1/2 quart light rum
3 sticks cinnamon
3 to 6 whole oranges
small bag of whole cloves
Simmer mixture with 3 sticks whole cinnamon to melt--DO NOT COOK. 
Allow to cool, pour into punch bowl.
Separately stick whole cloves around entire surface of 3 to 6 whole oranges. 
Place oranges into baking pan with 1/2 inch of water, and bake at 350°  for 45 minutes. 
Place oranges into punch bowl
Serves 40
Serve with pound cake, nut cake, or cheese and crackers.

Enjoy!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Colonial Christmas Traditions: Part 1

“At Christmas play and make cheer
For Christmas comes but once a year”

I’m starting the baking. Now when it comes to food, I should have been living in Colonial America. I hate store bought items, and try to use what we gardened or gathered as much as possible. We use apples we “borrowed” from our next door neighbor for pies, along with saskatoons and blueberries we gathered from the bush. Our vegetables are from the garden. We get our turkey from a friend who has a farm (whom we graciously and generously allow to kill and clean the thing, too, before bringing it home). One year I had the unmitigated gall to use store bought pie crust because I was running out of time and had the whole family coming! Oh, the shame of it, according to my sons. It was ten years ago, and my oldest still asks me “Is it YOUR pie?” I have to listen to a tirade of how awful store bought crust is almost every year, so I won't be making that mistake again.

When I think how we celebrate Christmas here in Canada, while we write Book 2 of our Sons of Liberty series, I go back to how they celebrated the holidays in Revolutionary America. In the process of researching for our novel for Book 1, "No Gentleman Is He", which is set in spring and summer of 1775 when hostilities broke out between colonialists and Crown, I found a few interesting facts about how Christmas was celebrated, or more accurately, how it was not.

In fact, many colonial celebrations were banned, including Christmas, claiming it was a pagan tradition based on Old English religions. In New England, the Puritans passed a law, particularly in Massachusetts, that punished anyone who observed the holiday. The Quakers merely ignored it. The other denominations went to church services, and that was the extent of their celebrations.  

It was the Roman Catholics and Anglicans, mostly in the southern areas of America, who started the observance of Twelfth Day, which started on December 25 and usually ended January 6. As the traditions slowly migrated north through the late 1600’s and early 1700’s, it was a perfect excuse for the adults to get out of their homes and socialize, attending balls and parties and any other festivals that were an excuse to escape the harsh weather in the northern most climate of America. The children were relegated to the home fires in the care of elder siblings or servants, having very little consideration at Christmas. There was no Christmas magic for them,and no Santa Claus.

Some of the traditions we have today originated with the colonialists. Holly, laurel, and garland because of the availability of the materials. They also look good during the winter, providing greenery in the dull of the short winter days. Mistletoe was hung, according to the pagan belief of couples courting and spooning underneath it. In that, the Puritans had it right.

The wealthier plantations were elaborately decorated with large feasts readied for everyone, even the slaves. The food was similar in many ways to modern Christmas's, including ham, turkey or roasts, along with root vegetables which kept well all winter. Honey, nuts and apples were used to sweeten the pastries. It was a source of pride to put on as expansive a feast as money would allow, for that was how each plantation’s hospitality and prestige was measured.

Of course, Christmas trees were not part of a colonial Christmas, since it was a Germanic tradition that did not come to popularity until Queen Victoria adapted it from her German husband, Albert. He brought it from his homeland. Soon, all of England and most of Canada adapted the tree as part of their Christmas. It was quickly embraced by America in the late 1800’s. 

Christmas carols were sung and were mostly religious in word. “Joy to the World” was extremely popular in America, based on many historical records and letters found during this time. Gift giving was also traditional for those who celebrated, but not as we give them today. Gifts were given to dependents, such as servants, apprentices and slaves, and in prosperous households, the children. It does seem the children were often afterthoughts, doesn’t it? And the dependents never gave gifts in return, nor was it an elaborate procedure. They would receive one special gift which were treasured and valued much more than they are today.

As more and more immigrants came to America, their traditions were often adopted and integrated into their own household celebrations.

The research I’ve done has inspired my interest in Colonial Christmas holiday traditions. I am especially interested in recipes and food traditions. Do you have any traditions that hark back to your heritage?
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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Modern Dickens with "Jack Dawkins"

Review of “Jack Dawkins” by Charlton Daines

Five Stars



Description:

Jack Dawkins, once known as the Artful Dodger in the streets of London, was sent to Australia on a prison ship when he was little more than a boy. Now he has returned to find that London has changed while the boy has turned into a man.

With few prospects provided by his criminal past and having developed mannerisms that allow him to move amongst a higher strata of society, Jack turns his back on the streets that would have primed him as a successor to the murderer, Bill Sykes, and quickly remodels himself as a gentleman thief. 

New acquaintances and a series of chance encounters, including one with his old friend Oliver, create complications as remnants of his past come back to plague him. Jack is forced to struggle for a balance between his new life and memories that haunt him with visions of the derelict tavern where Nancy used to sing.

My Review:

I want to preface this review by saying I read it from the viewpoint of someone who has never read Charles Dickens. I have, but it was years ago. I wanted to do this so I could find out if it could stand alone as a novel in its own right, and not dependent on former knowledge.

Jack Dawkins, The Artful Dodger, returns to England from ten years in the Australian convict outback, having escaped from there. His return is illegal, not having served his full sentence of life, but for this clever child thief, that was not a hindrance. He endeavors to find anyone connected with his former circle of child thieves, especially Oliver Brownlow, a young man he had helped kidnap years ago, and who was ultimately rescued from a life on the streets with the accidental help of Jack. Now Jack is back in London and determined to look up Oliver and regain that connection. 

What follows is an in-depth and insightful exploration of one man’s searching for his place in a society that didn’t care about him as a child, and cares even less now he’s a young man. Forced to find his own way, he finds that his former skills come in handy, affording his living but fighting his own conscious and re-discovering his morality. In this process, he reluctantly makes connections with even less desirable characters than he was associated with in his childhood, and gets himself into situations that prove more than troublesome. 

The plot was engrossing and believable, and it did indeed stand alone as a novel in its own right, with no dependence on former knowledge of the book or the stage play. I was prepared to be bored and was pleasantly surprised to find myself immediately engrossed in the story. It flowed naturally and the characters were well developed and easy to remember. They were certainly not what I call “cookie cutter characters”. You could easily envision their pasts and how they grew up, and what made them do what they did. 

I especially enjoyed the play on morality, the theme I took being “nurture VS nature”. Despite his upbringing on the streets, being taught to steal to make a living and the warped morals that were instilled in him from a very young age, he finds he still has feelings and a conscious that, I think, surprises even him. There are things he just won’t consider, showing he is innately a good man, despite his dubious livelihood, knowing no other way.

The atmosphere and descriptions of the location during that era is striking, allowing the reader to “see” the difference in the areas around the city. 

I did find the brief love story concerning Jack and Lilly, the modest flower girl, a bit unrealistic, only based on brief glimpses and even briefer meetings, but that could be because my background is in romance writing. I tried hard to find flaws in this novel and this was the best I could come up with. 

All in all, a great read, and I would highly recommend it, both to those familiar with the work it was based on, and for those unfamiliar with Dickens work. I enthusiastically rate this as a five star read.

Lynette Willows
Author of “No Gentleman Is He”, first in the epic Sons of Liberty series


Original review can be viewed here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/646528278

Monday, 10 June 2013

Blog Tour Special Announcement



Win a pair of specially designed earrings by a talented artisan, Lorri Schlamp of Polished Presence Design. She is so talented that she is garnering attention from notable artists in the music industry clamoring for her jewelry. I was fortunate indeed that she was willing to afford me the opportunity to offer my readers a specially designed pair of earrings made of crafted from Venetian lace, sterling silver and Pyrite gemstones.. They are one of a kind and the design will NOT be repeated, and it’s made in the true spirit of Colonial America.

In order to win this pair of special earrings or a $100 Amazon gift certificate, all you have to do is comment on the featured blog of the day, featuring our first novel in the Sons of Liberty series, "No Gentleman Is He" all throughout the blog tour and the prize will be awarded at the end of the tour, sometime in late July.
Here are the earrings from Polished Presence Designs:
**not exactly as pictured, since they are one-of-a-kind, but it's close, made from Venetian Lace in the traditional manner of Colonial women**

Here is the list of blogs hosting Carley and I for our month long tour. Be sure to visit them all and join in the fun!


Looking forward to seeing you all there.

If you’re interested in seeing Polished Presence Design’s fantastic artwork, visit her here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Polished-Presence-Design/106606129367061?fref=ts

However, I also have a bonus offer for all our readers that is specific to my blog here; if you also comment on my blog at http://lynettewillows.blogspot.ca/ on the special announcement entry here, and answer a question concerning our book, “No Gentleman Is He”, I have an additional prize. From the same artisan, Polished Presence Designs, I have the matching necklace. However, because of the existing Canadian laws, I have to ask a “skill testing question” and decided to base it on our book, so that loyal readers gain this one of a kind wearable piece of art.

You will double your chances of winning if you add a “like” vote on our book page on Amazon.

Better yet, triple it with a review as well, on the Amazon book site for our novel here: http://amzn.to/179Mo7R .

Be sure to mention how many entries you want by fulfilling the terms, your name and email address, as well as the answer to the skill-testing question in comments, so I can add your name the appropriate amount of times to the draw jar. Remember to leave your email address so I can contact you if you’re a winner! This is essential; if you don’t do this, I can’t possibly contact you to send your prize, can I?

In short, let me review how you can win the unique, one-of-a-kind necklace, exclusive to this blog site only:
1 entry: commenting on my blog here and answering the question concerning “No Gentleman Is He”.
2 entries: “liking” our novel on Amazon.
3 entries: posting an honest review on Amazon.

We’d love it if you joined us on our fan page so you can keep updated on our progress on Book 2 of the Sons of Liberty series and any other special news we have to share. We’d love to hear from you! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lynette-Willows-Carley-Bauer/278323855613717

Remember, your name could be entered up to three times, tripling your chances of winning. The draw will be at the end of the blog tour, sometime in late July, the same time as the earring draw. Keep tuned for the date of the draws here and on our fan page.

Interested in seeing what you’re playing for? The wonderful necklace:
**not exactly as pictured, since they are one-of-a-kind, but it's very close, made from Venetian Lace hand-wrapped with fresh water pearls, again in the traditional manner of the Colonial era**


And you can’t lose by reading our book, “No Gentleman Is He”, considering it is rated 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon http://amzn.to/179Mo7R 

And is #1 in Goodreads “Hot Reads for Summer” list. http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/35996.Hot_Reads_for_Summer

**I also invite you to visit my co-author Carley’s blog, “From Carley’s Laptop” at http://fromcarleyslaptop.blogspot.com/



*Skill testing question for a chance to win the necklace, exclusive to this site: What is the name of Colton Rolfe's illiterate lead hand that Cassandra taught to read? Remember, you must include the answer to your comment to qualify for the prize. 

**Must have a minimum of three separate readers enter  before drawing for the prize of the necklace. Failure to meet minimum reader requirement will result in cancellation of the game/contest.**

Monday, 29 April 2013

No.#1 Hot Summer Reads

I'm so happy!

No Gentleman Is He by Carley Bauer and Lynette Willows, published by Tirgearr Publishing, NUMBER ONE at Goodreads for Hot Reads for Summer! 

http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/35996.Hot_Reads_for_Summer

Go check it out.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

"No Gentleman Is He" Sale! April 19th - 21st.

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19 April 1775 is one of the most important dates in American history . . . the official start date of the American Revolutionary War.

To commemorate the 238th anniversary of this war, join us from 19-21 April as we knock back the price of No Gentleman Is He by Carley Bauer and Lynette Willows to just $2.38!

-- As the threat of war comes ever closer, wills are tested through gunfire, treachery, danger, and kidnapping. Does Colton dare trust Cassandra with Sons of Liberty secrets? More importantly, can he trust her with his heart? --

Reviewers said:

"I felt as if I was there living in those exciting, yet hard times, when this country began its journey to independence. It really retells the american history. It had everything you want and more. A beautiful love story and an exciting book, you really feel for these people in those times." ~ Dana, 5 stars

"I just finished reading "No Gentleman Is He", it really is a must read. I was wary when my wife suggested I read it. I looked at the cover. Was it a love story or was it based in historical fact? She assured me the book had enough of both to please any reader. Let me say, I wasn't disappointed." ~ Cole34, 5 stars

"I haven't read a historical romance in a very long time but I am so glad that I read this. This book had me hooked from the very beginning. I normally only have time to read at night, but found myself looking for opportunities to squeeze in a few chapters during the day. The story was well written and the attention to history made me feel like I was living in that time period." ~Diane, 5 stars

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Tirgearr Publishing: http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Bauer_Carley/no-gentleman-is-he.html

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BPY7UJO/ref=s9_simh_gw_p351_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-3&pf_rd_r=0JWZBRWB5SMA85BTC2AY&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938811&pf_rd_i=507846

Monday, 15 April 2013

Morgen Bailey Interviews Moi.

Morgen Bailey interviews me at her place, and she serves wonderful coffee and tea. We discuss traditional eBook publishing, my reading tastes, and how my co-author and I met and ended up collaborating on a series of Historic Romance novels.

C'mon over and chat with us!

http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/author-interview-with-romance-novelist-lynette-willows/

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Colonial Hygiene II: Soap & Shampoo?


Interesting enough for early Colonial Americans, bathing often did not involve soap.

On the smaller farm holdings, it was sometimes weeks or months before the men forayed into town for supplies. Because of the isolation, they never saw another human being besides their families. The women were the most isolated, since it was usually the husband who drove into town. It could be years before the wife saw anyone, left with only the children for company. So why would they bother to try and stay clean?

Townsfolk were a little pickier about their personal hygiene, since they did go out and meet with others, socializing and visiting. Even then, the poorer town folk could barely afford soap, so made do with good scrubbings with water before wandering out the door.
Soap making actually made its debut in pre-Roman Empire times, by the Babylonians who actually used soap to prepare animal fibers for weaving, and had nothing to do with cleanliness. It was only when Roman physicians began using soap in the treatment of disease in the early half of the second century that it gained recognition as a cleaning agent. It quickly evolved into a staple of personal hygiene and household cleaning.
Making soap was considered a time consuming, smelly, toxic chore. It was used sparingly only when absolutely necessary. More often, it was used to clean linens more than their bodies, and not just because it was troublesome to make. Because lye soap was extremely harsh on the skin, regular use was not prevalent until 1830 or thereabouts, probably due to “a new fastidiousness about body odor that increased the labor required to achieve decency,” according to one Boston newsman complaining about the increased stink in the town and its residents.

It was at this time that making scented oils to add to the caustic lye soap was also becoming much easier and cheap to produce, though for many years after, scented soap was still mostly the domain of the rich.

As I mentioned, soap was more commonly used to launder their clothing, which was time consuming in itself. It was considered far more efficient to either clean their clothes or clean themselves, but not both. So they washed their bodies with plain water (unless you were exceptionally dirty) and put clean clothing on. Often rose water, which was actually a vinegar and acidic, closed sweat pores and was used as a stop gap between washings, just like modern deodorant does.

Soap makers added salt to the basic recipe and produced hard soap that was formed into sheets and sold by the pound. Store-bought soap became increasingly popular as manufacturers were able to produce consistently high quality soap at a relatively cheap price. Scented oils were added to the caustic lye soap, though scented soap was mostly the domain of the rich. Common essential oils used were lavender, violet and sandalwood, which held the most appeal to people.

It was only in the first half the nineteenth century when people became a bit more fragrant, according to our modern noses, anyway.

Since soap was so caustic, it’s no wonder no one wanted to use it on their hair. It left hands red and rough, so one can only imagine what it would do to hair.

In fact, not much is known about eighteen century hair care. There certainly doesn't seem to be any written records, no recipes, nothing that would seem to help. It provides a distinct problem for novelists and even non-fiction writers when describing personal care. 

One thing is certain. Hair was washed far less than it is today. Imagine all those thick, long locks and how long it would take to dry in front of a fire, or outside in the sun. Hair styles reflected this problem with the elaborate and up-swept fashions that served to conceal oily and scraggly hair. Most styles involved braiding or knots covered by dainty caps or bonnets.
Can you imagine how long it took for this hair to dry and style?

So, what did they use then, if soap was out of the question because of its highly damaging effects, even making the hair fall out after use?

The only conclusion we can make is that they used plain water. In fact, there has been some reference to saving rain water, even though most had safe wells to draw their water from. Why rain water? Records indicate that rain water left hair shiny and silky, possibly because it lacked the mineral interference from ground well water. Oily hair is naturally resistant to water, as we all know when trying to wash a greasy pan, or get grease off your hands. However water, if worked with vigor on scalp and hair strands, can be quite effective on getting dirt from the hair. 

The natural oils, when left behind, actually made the hair softer, shinier and easier to handle. After all, most modern shampoos have detergent of some sort, leaving hair dry and fly-away, and even dulls the shine.


An experiment was conducted with en-actors of historical events. For accuracy sake and to test the theory, they only washed their hair with water as they speculated they did during the era. After a few weeks of never using shampoo or any kind of soap, their systems adjusted and their hair actually became soft and shiny, not in the least oily. So dedicated were they that they continued with this regimen for a whole year or more. It stayed soft, shiny, and far less oily than if they had used shampoo.

But now another problem arises; the smell of wet hair. As our modern noses got used to perfumes and soap smell, the natural smell of wet hair would be unpleasant indeed. For people of that time, however, it was not a huge problem. Rose water or other scents were often used if the lady wanted to be extra fragrant. Some men even regularly used “pomades” to scent hair and clothing. Some popular rinses were rosemary tea, or apple cider vinegar if they didn’t have rose water available.

There was another treatment regularly applied to ensure hair remained lice and pest free, to maintain its healthy appearance and feel. That old adage, “100 strokes a night” before bed, holds true. It not only de-tangled those long locks, but it also distributed the natural oil of the hair to the ends and preventing excessive oiliness at the roots and dryness at the bottom, cutting down on split ends. If a woman had an excessively oily scalp, right after washing they would vigorously rub the scalp to “wipe away” any excessive oil that wasn’t rinsed by the water.

It was also around this time that England outlawed slavery, finding the trade in human flesh distasteful. Now, you will have to bear with me on this, because an innovative product came about that would revolutionize cosmetics later on.

To prevent the embargo on slave ships entering English ports, the normal first stop for any slaver, American started to ship slaves directly to Southern areas like Florida, Brazil, Columbia, Guiana, Venezuela, and the Caribbean, most destined to work on sugar and coffee plantations. However, some were bought by slave traders from the Americas and transported by land north, to be enthusiastically purchased by tobacco plantations and large farmers. When some of these slaves came north, they brought with them a new concoction called “coconut oil”.

In South America, not only was coconut oil plentiful, but it was commonly used for cooking and frying. One can only surmise that it was also accidently discovered to be perfect for softening the skin and used as a moisturizer. The black people started to liberally use it not only their bodies, but they also discovered that the oil and milk from this fruit made the hair shiny and healthier, and it was even reported that older slaves delayed greying of the hair by using it regularly. For most women it was slow to catch on, seeing it as a “black beauty” procedure. They believed that this co-co-nut oil would result in their skin becoming darker, and since white skin was a sign of beauty and prosperity, they stayed well clear of it for a long time. Instead, they stuck to their arsenic and mercury laden cosmetics that eventually killed a good many women.

Marie-Antoinette: France had already become the leader in fashion, both in clothing and hair styles, thanks to this very reviled but often imitated trend setter.

However, there were also some forward thinking women that, when they discovered their slaves using it, quickly implemented the same toilette regime, delighting in softer skin and using it in their hair to tame the elaborate hair styles, as well as enjoying vibrantly colored hair that the oil accented. It also helped to cut down and reduce the effects of sea salt for those living on the coast. Sea salt often dried the hair and caused a straw-like consistency.

Coconut oil is still used extensively today in many cosmetic products, because of its natural makeup appealing to those who hate using chemicals, and because of its wonderful moisturizing properties.

And so there you have it. I hope this helps future writers, so they don’t to skirt around the issue of hygiene before the 20th century, for shampoo did not make its appearance until then.

If you find any other information I may have missed, please let me know in comments, preferably with a link to the source. Any comments are a joy to me and make my day, so let's chat!

Friday, 5 April 2013

An Apology; This is How I Work.


I thought I’d better put a short note up, explaining why I’m so late getting the second installment of Colonial Hygiene up.

I have a background in freelance journalism. Now, you have to understand, unlike staff reporters on a paper, I have to rely on my own devices to write an article, edit it myself, and get it sold to various print vehicles. So I have to be particular about what I report. A staff reporter, when they make a mistake, has the luxury of an editor to catch mistakes, and the reporter is readily forgiven unless it happens too many times. As a freelancer, one badly researched report can result in the paper becoming hesitant to take any further pieces from me, or being outright banned from submitting to them altogether.

I follow the basic creed of all good reporters; Who, What, When, Where and Why. If it calls for it, I also have to look into the lesser known rule, How.

I frankly don’t trust online sources, unless I know their reputation. I will avail myself, on occasion, to Wikipedia, but never take their entries as gospel. Let’s face it, they are submissions from the general public or corporations with an agenda, and sometimes they may not have their facts straight. Some do, but who can know?

So I will take notes from there and other online sites, and then make a short trip to my local librarian. Now, this poor woman cringes every time I walk in. She knows I will have an almost impossible assignment for her, considering we are in a small farming community. The good thing is, they are also linked with all the larger libraries, including the University library in the city, so there’s a good chance I will find some obscure books that will reveal what I need to know. She and I have about two or three hours of just looking though the computerized fiche just to find one small reference to what I’m looking for. I may have to wait a few days for a book I request, but at least I will have the straight facts from a respected, well known source. I will double and even triple check my facts with other publications, just to be sure they all coincide. Since my poor local librarian has recently gone into hiding every time I walk in, I decided to take the load off her a bit and visit the next town over, and go to their library. To my delight, I found the mother of my son’s friends working there, and we were long time friends. It will take her awhile to realize that my friendship is not strictly unselfish, but for now, she’s very willing to help.

Also, as per my penchant, I became obsessed with the research and ended up with a multitude of notes that no one could possibly be interested in, except for me, of course. I’m an addict when it comes to useless information. I wrote the piece, but also realized I had enough material for three long blog entries, and am now in the process of taking out all the boring and frankly disgusting information (soap making was indeed a very nasty, smelly process) that no one wants to know anyway. Hence, it's cut. 

*Note: if you want to know about soap making, there is a ton of information about that subject, so I decided to forego the pleasure of informing you here. 

Ergo, please be patient. I had a ton of cutting and editing to do, in an attempt to give you all an informative but interesting bit of information that you hopefully will find useful for your own projects, and to save you the trouble of doing all this nonsense yourself. I wanted to be sure that I was not only precise, but that you would at least find it entertaining. With me, that is a hard balance to find, because frankly, I’m an information geek. But at least I can cover what you wanted to know in one blog, instead of three.

Stay tuned!