Authors Recognition Award

If you follow along with this blog fairly regularly you may have noticed that I have been taking it a little easier this summer than I normally do. 2020 has brought plenty of strangeness and with that, I’ve found it useful to have the flexibility of trading my normally weekly post for an every two weeks schedule. At this point I anticipate returning to a weekly posting schedule when school starts at the end of August. But it’s 2020, so I may be carried off by murder hornets or blown away in a dust storm by then. I’m not making any firm promises.

Or maybe I’ll be be eaten by carnivorous plants grown from mystery seeds. What a strange year. Image by MarcosJH from Pixabay

In the meantime, with this “off” week, since I’m not researching any weird historical tidbits to share with you, I’m going to participate in an award/tag that I received recently.

The Author’s Recognition Award was originally created by Beverly at her Becoming the Oil and Wine Blog. She wants to support fellow bloggers who have written and published books, or who are somewhere in that process, to give them an opportunity to write about their work. Thanks, Beverly. That’s pretty super cool of you!

Thank you also to the Dippy Dotty Girl who nominated me for this award, and who is furiously querying agents in hopes of publishing a book about her “dippy-dotty travels through Cornwall.” As somewhat of a dippy-dotty traveler myself, I’m anxious for the someday when I can read it.

This is the image to which the rules refer, but feel free to use the Venus Flytrap picture if it works for you.

Like any blog award, there are few rules:

  1. Create a new post on your blog with the above logo or with one of your own creation.
  2. Include both the purpose of the award and the rules of the award.
  3. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.
  4. Include links to the creator of the award and to the inspiration post Celebrating and Supporting our Fellow Writers.
  5. Write a brief description of the books you have written or the book you are currently writing.
  6. Include a link to your published books or the potential timeline of release.
  7. Nominate at least five bloggers who have published books or who are writing a book.
  8. Support at least one of the bloggers you nominated by either purchasing one of their books or sharing the links to their books. If they haven’t written a book, share one of their blog posts

My books:

Launching Sheep & Other Stories from the Intersection of History and Nonsense is a collection of humorous essays about quirky history, viewed through the lens of modern-day family life. Released in the spring of 2017, it is a celebration of the first five years of this very blog, which was originally called The Practical Historian: Your Guide to Practically True History. The blog title grew up a little as my writing career became more developed, but the posts have not matured at all. You can find more information about the book at this link.

Gentleman of Misfortune is a historical novel about a 19th century gentleman criminal who commandeers a shipment of Egyptian mummies, attempts to make his fortune by taking them on the road, and gets more than he bargained for. You can find out more and read an excerpt at this link.

Smoke Rose to Heaven is a historical novel that tells the 19th century coming of age story of a girl with a unique gift and a dangerous secret. It is a companion novel to Gentleman of Misfortune, but as the timelines intersect, the two books can be enjoyed in either order. You can find out more and read an excerpt at this link.

My Work in Progress is another historical novel that does have an actual working title, but one never knows how it will go with titles. It was inspired by a 19th century diary discovered by my aunt in the false-bottom drawer of a desk that once belonged to my grandmother. Close to completion now, this novel will soon attract an influential agent, a large advance from a major publisher, and inevitable fame. And since I’m dreaming big anyway, I might as well sell the film rights, too.

Now for the nominees:

  1. Jane Olandese (Book ‘Em Jan O)
  2. M.B. Henry
  3. Steven Baird (Ordinary Handsome)
  4. Tammie Painter
  5. Matthew Wright

I know a lot of writers, many of them wonderfully creative people I have met virtually in the blogosphere. I’ve listed five here, and I suggest you check them all out because they’re great. But please also know that if you are a writer and I didn’t list you, that was in no way an intentional slight. I know we’re all busy blogging away about anything other than our books so people don’t get sick to death of us writing endlessly about our books and begging them to buy our books and love our books and write thoughtful reviews about our books, but sometimes, it’s nice to get to just share. Also, I want to read about your books. So please consider yourself nominated and carry on.

Thanks for stopping by! I promise next week I’ll post something about a little piece of history you never knew you wanted to know, but that might come in handy at your next cocktail party, which will probably be swarmed by murder hornets so you should probably just stay home to be safe.

Dear Coffee Shop Dudes: The Blogger Recognition Award

First published in London by editor John Dunton on March 17, 1691, The Athenian Mercury, ended with the following announcement:

All Persons whatever may be resolved gratis in any Question that their own satisfaction or curiosity shall prompt ’em to, if they send their Questions by a Penny Post letter to Mr. Smith at his Coffee-house in Stocks Market in the Poultry, where orders are given for the reception of such Letters, and care shall be taken for their Resolution by the next Weekly Paper after their sending

The publication was something wholly new to the English-reading public, whose own questions made up the content of the biweekly paper.

The public response was overwhelming, prompting Dunton to seek help from his mathematician friend Richard Sault, and eventually the allegedly well-read Dr. Norris as well as Reverend Samuel Wesley. Together this group formed the Athenian Society, know-it-alls who gathered over coffee to wrestle with the deepest concerns of their anonymous readers.

Everyone knows a good emblem makes you seem far more authoritative. Frontispiece to the Athenian Oracle, a collection of issues of The Athenian Mercury. Public Domain, via Wikimedia.

Questions were often of a scientific nature, like What becomes of smoke? (it dissipates), What do you think of the Milky Way in the Heavens? (it’s made up of a bunch of stars and it’s pretty neato), or Whether when a horse neighs, it is rejoicing or because he is angry? (He’s just sayin’ “hey!”, or possibly “hay!”).

Some were more philosophical, such as, What is death? (no longer alive, more or less), Why do men dream of things they never thought of? (minus Divine influence, they don’t), or Whether truth is always to be spoken (yes, of course, unless it shouldn’t, but definitely mostly yes).

Still others had to do with issues of the heart, including such gems as, A lady who is extremely troubled by corns desires to know the reason? (probably Divine punishment for breaking some poor fella’s heart) and Where is the likeliest place to get a husband in? (an advertisement in this paper would be a good place to start, but besides that, anywhere there are likely to be more men than women).

Often given credit for being the first advice column, the forerunner of Dear Abby and Ask Ann Landers, The Athenian Mercury ran for seven years, dispensing wisdom and advice, and even spawning a brief spin-off called The Ladies’ Mercury devoted only to questions pertaining to the concerns of the fairer sex.


Dude in a coffee shop getting sage advice from the Internet. photo credit: Jerome Olivier thinkers via photopin (license)

Of course today print media has an uncertain future and its parts, including the traditional advice column, are falling by the wayside, but if you are in need of advice, there is certainly no shortage of it on the Internet. Upstart fake media outlets, weirdly specific discussion forums, and smarty-pants bloggers abound, ready to solve your biggest, most intimate problems.

And why not? They are probably just as qualified four dudes hanging out in a coffee shop, debating life’s greatest questions, like, Whether birds have any government? The answer, obviously, is yup.

Recently, I was asked to share some advice for newcomers to the blogosphere as part of the Blogger Recognition Award. The rules of accepting the award are as follows:

  1. Write a post to display your award.
  2. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  3. Give two pieces of advice for new bloggers.
  4. Thank the person that nominated you and link to his or her blog.
  5. Pass the award on to 15 more smarty-pants bloggers.

So, here it goes. I started blogging because, appropriately enough, I took the advice of a friend who said I should. If I’m qualified to give advice (and again, using the measuring stick of four dudes in a coffee shop, I might be), then it would be:

  1. Blog consistently (as much as possible) according to a realistic schedule that you can maintain in the context of your life.
  2. Find a consistent niche that offers you lots of material that you’re good at writing about.
  3. Okay, this one is just a bonus, because I like you all so much. Don’t blog overtly about politics. Unless of course that’s just your thing, but if that’s the case, I don’t envy you.

And now for the best part. In answer to the question, What is worse than ingratitude? the Athenian Society was uncharacteristically quiet (literally answering “__ __ __ __ __”).  I agree with them on this one and I am very grateful  to Jasmine of How Useful It Is for passing this award on to me, along with the advice (and I’m paraphrasing here): If you get a blog award, pass it on already! Sorry it took me so long.

And now for the other best part. I’d like to pass the Blogger Recognition Award on to the following folks:



The Book of Secrets

Cooking With a Wallflower

Zombie Flamingos

Cleopatra Loves Books


Reading Recommendations

Recipe in A Bottle

A Generous Helping

Maverick on the Move

What Should I Read Next?

James Harrington’s Blog of Geek and Writing

The Monster In Your Closet

History Present

Pat Wahler, Author

Okay, so that’s sixteen, but they are all well worth checking out. You can trust me. I’m a smarty-pants blogger.



“If you didn’t win a prize — and especially if you did — better luck next year!”

On the morning of April 13, 1888, successful inventor of explosives, Alfred Nobel picked up his copy of the morning paper and found something few ever have the opportunity to read: his own obituary notice.  “The Merchant of Death is Dead,” the headline read and the article went on to explain, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding more ways to kill people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”

Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite, and did NOT die on April 12, 1888. Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite, and did NOT die on April 12, 1888. Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A Nobel had died the previous day, but it was Alfred’s older brother Ludvig, a successful businessman and inventor in his own right. Though Alfred was still very much alive (and would be for another eight and a half years) the mistake was devastating to the inventor whose drive had largely been to develop safer ways to produce and use explosives.

Determined that he would not be remembered as “The Merchant of Death,” Nobel changed his will to leave 94% of his wealth (which was a lot) to the establishment of an award designed to honor great achievements in various scientific and cultural categories.

So since 1901, the Nobel prizes have been awarded on December 10th, with announcements happening sometime in early October. But since 1991, there has been an even more impressive presentation of awards given just prior to the Nobel announcements, called the Ig Nobel Prize Awards.

Thanks to Isabella Mandl, et. al., recipients of the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize for Physiology, we now know that red-footed tortoises do not experience contagious yawning. And I know we were all wondering. By Ltshears (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Thanks to Mandl, et. al., recipients of the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize for Physiology, we now know that red-footed tortoises do not experience contagious yawning. And I know we were all wondering. By Ltshears (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
While the type of scientific research that now claims the attention of the Nobel committee may be somewhat difficult for us regular shlubs to fully understand, the Ig Nobels (or Igs for short) are designed to recognize research that “first makes people laugh and then makes them think.”

Last year’s winners include a group of Japanese scientists who formally studied just how slippery a banana peel discarded on the floor actually is, a pair from the US and India that teamed up to study whether nosebleeds might be effectively treated by packing one’s nose with strips of cured pork, and nutrition researchers from Spain who studied the viability of using bacteria isolated from baby poop as probiotic starter cultures for use in the production of fermented sausages.

2005 Ig Nobel laureates Edward Cussler and Brian Gettelfinger determined that humans can swim just as fast in syrup as they can in water.
2005 Ig Nobel laureates Edward Cussler and Brian Gettelfinger determined that humans can swim just as fast in syrup as they can in water.

That’s just a FEW of the scientific advances celebrated in just ONE year of the Igs. The tradition of the Ig Nobels was begun by editors of the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research and it has been pretty widely embraced by the scientific community, with the awards presentation being hosted by Nobel laureates and with most recipients (who do have the option of declining the nomination) graciously accepting their awards, often in-person.

Because the thing about scientific research is that sometimes it’s the bizarre or trivial questions that lead to discoveries that really do change the world. The 2006 winner of the biology Ig was a multinational group of researchers who determined that the female mosquito responsible for transmitting malaria is every bit as attracted to Limburger cheese as it is to the smell of human feet. A worthy study it was, because the findings have led to new developments in the control of mosquito populations in the ongoing battle against malaria in Africa.

Enquist, et. al. received the award in the category of Interdisciplinary Research in 2003 for their determination to prove what I think we've probably known all along, that chickens really do prefer beautiful people. photo credit: via photopin (license)
Enquist, et. al. received the award in the category of Interdisciplinary Research in 2003 for their determination to prove what the scientific community has long suspected, that chickens really do prefer beautiful people. photo credit: via photopin (license)

And in 2011, a researcher from Stanford University won the Ig in Literature for his “Theory of Structured Procrastination,” in which he suggests that highly accomplished people work best when they “work on something important as a way to avoid working on something that’s even more important,” which is why I am taking the time to blog about the Ig Nobel Prize when I should be writing a novel.

I’m also writing this because in the next few weeks we will learn who the world-changers are that the Nobel Committee has decided deserve to have the title of “Nobel laureate” in the headlines of their obituaries, but before that can happen, on this very night at Harvard’s Sander’s Theater, the 25th annual Ig Nobel awards ceremony will take center stage.

If you forgot to get your tickets, don’t worry. You’ll be able to catch a radio broadcast of this important event on NPR’s Science Friday the day after Thanksgiving.  It’s sure to be a doozy of a ceremony and it will end with the traditional words:  “If you didn’t win a prize — and especially if you did — better luck next year!”

If you’re interested (and you know you are), here’s a link to the full list of Ig Nobel Prize winning studies.

Better than a Pulitzer: The Creative Blogger Award

On May 7, 1912, a few months after the death of Joseph Pulitzer, Columbia University set the plans in motion for establishing the Pulitzer Prize as stipulated in the journalist’s will. Five years later, on June 4, 1917 the Prize Board named the first recipients of that honor, awarding prizes in four categories: history, biography, reporting, and newspaper editorial.

Born in Mako, Hungary, the well educated Joseph Pulitzer fell into his journalism career the way most people do, by well-timed networking at a public chess match. But it wasn’t luck that brought him success as the owner of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and later as owner of The New York World.

Joesph Pulitzer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Joesph Pulitzer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It was hard work and the kind of business savvy that pairs hard news with sensationalized stories, exaggerations, and occasionally stuff that’s just plain made up. And it was also his unfailing belief that a free press and the freedom of creative expression was central to the success of a free society. He once stated, “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery.”

For Pulitzer, free expression and a free press would always be the watchdog that would protect people from government abuses, calling to account politicians who act in their own interest rather than that of the nation they represent. His ideals stand firmly against suppression of speech, whether deemed prudent or not, and demand that all voices can be heard.

And so he established a school for journalism and a system for awarding excellence in journalism and other creative pursuits, with a particular emphasis on works that in some way serve the betterment of humanity, particularly exposure of government corruption and injustice.

Pulitzer also had the foresight to recognize that society would evolve over the years and so he gave the Board authority to expand the award categories as they deemed appropriate. Since the award was first established, it’s expanded at various times to include, among other things, telegraphic reporting, poetry, music, and feature photography. And since 1995, it’s been adapting to the expansion of online news outlets.

Even so, to the best of my knowledge, there is not yet a category for independent practical history blogs, despite the fact that they tend to pair history with sensational stories, exaggerations, and occasionally stuff that’s just plain made up. And who knows, they may even lead to the betterment of humanity.

But that’s okay, because bloggers are pretty good about recognizing the efforts of other bloggers. Of course blogs cover a wide variety of topics and there are about a million different reasons a writer might turn to blogging. But whatever the purpose, a blog is an unfettered creative outlet with the potential to influence society. We should recognize one another in our creative efforts.

That's prettier than a Pulitzer medal.
That’s prettier than a Pulitzer medal.

That’s why I am extremely grateful, on this 103rd anniversary of the day Columbia University first approved plans to establish the Pulitzer Prize and in this week when I celebrate the third anniversary of my silly little blog, to accept the Creative Blogger Award.

Like most blog awards this one comes with a few rules. First, thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog. Second, share five things about yourself. Third, nominate 10 -15 more creative blogs.

Thank you very much to Susan Roberts of Susan’s Musings for the kind nomination.

Five things about me:

1. My fourth grader’s teacher sends an e-mail every week asking parents to remind students they need to practice their recorders. I’ve never reminded him. Not once. And I never will.

2. I once spent a few months working as a dog trainer for a major pet supply retailer. At the time I was a cat person. Actually I still am a cat person. Seriously, it’s a strong preference. Just don’t tell my dog because it would hurt his feelings and he’s pretty sweet.

3. When I was sixteen, my grandmother offered me a piece of sage advice. She said, “If you have to fall in love and marry someone, he might as well be a farmer.” My husband isn’t a farmer, but Grandma always liked him anyway.

4. I read a lot of literary fiction, upscale historical fiction, and narrative nonfiction, but I have a serious weakness for young adult dystopian fiction. I can’t help myself. It doesn’t even have to be well written. And I will set aside just about any great literary work currently on my “to read” shelf in favor of one.

5. The very first home cooked meal I made after my husband and I were married was macaroni and cheese. From a box. He thanked me and ate it with a smile. Now that’s a keeper! And thankfully, I have since become a better cook. Though my kids still prefer the boxed mac ‘n’ cheese.


Victo Dolore

I Didn’t Have My Glasses On

Childhood Relived


Notes From a Hermitage

Loni Found Herself

Russel Ray Photos

Ponies and Martinis

The Armchair Sommelier


One Lovely Blog Post

One Lovely Blog Award

Let me first say that this post is long, long overdue. Way back in September, a fellow blogger was kind enough to pass on the One Lovely Blog Award to me. I am so very grateful and frankly ashamed that it has taken me this long to officially accept it. The rules as I understand them are:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to his or her blog.
2. Share seven pieces of random information about yourself.
3. Nominate and link to seven more lovely blogs.

So first, thank you very much to Bruce Goodman (aka Bernhard Piers-Gûdmӧnd) whose blog A Story A Day is far lovelier than mine. You will enjoy Bruce’s blog because he really does write an amazing new story EVERY DAY!

The second part of the award is what has been giving me a little pause because this blog isn’t really about me. Well, okay, it’s sort of about me, but it’s mostly about history, and sometimes a little silly stuff I made up. So I decided that it is in this tradition that I will share my seven things, with a little history, a little of me, and maybe a little silliness sprinkled in.

1. In 1860, then teenager Joshua Slocum decided that a life of boot-making and babysitting a growing brood of brothers and sisters wasn’t the life for him. He struck out on his own, taking to life on the sea and eventually becoming in 1898 the first man to successfully complete a solo sail around the world. Slocum wrote a bestselling book about his adventure. Then nine years later, vanished while out to sea because he had never bothered to learn to swim.

My first job as a teenager was as a summer camp counselor and it provided me with the opportunity to earn my Red Cross Basic Sailing certification, which came in handy a few years later when I worked as a program director at a different camp on a much larger and MUCH windier lake. Thankfully part of the training is learning how, in the middle of a choppy body of water, to right a “turtled” boat (that means completely upside down in case you haven’t yet earned your Red Cross Basic Sailing certification), a skill I used often enough that I don’t think I will be writing a bestseller based on my sailing adventures anytime soon. But fortunately I do know how to swim.

November 14, 1909: Yachtsman Joshua Slocum and...
Yep, I could probably even turtle that one. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Cuban violinist and composer Enrique Jorrin introduced the world to his song “La Engañadora” in 1951. It’s believed to be the first cha-cha-cha ever composed and it ushered in a new dance style that soon took the world by storm. Nearly fifty years later my husband and I performed a cha-cha for our first dance as a married couple. Then we took the world by storm.

3. In 1804 Meriwether Lewis and William Clark struck out on a great adventure to explore Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, leaving from the newly acquired city of St. Louis for the eventual destination of Fort Clatsop in what would become Northern Oregon. With the help of the local Native Americans, the exploration party survived a tremendously dismal winter during which only twelve days failed to bring rain. On January 1, 1806, Lewis wrote in his journal: “The expedition is homesick. The rain goes on and on.”

Likewise in August of 2010, our family struck out on a great adventure from just east of the Mississippi River and moved to Oregon. Like Lewis & Clark, we found beauty beyond our imaginations and met friendly Oregonians without whom I’m not sure we would have survived. But after a couple of tremendously dismal winters, our expedition grew homesick and in February of 2013 we returned to St. Louis. Lewis and Clark were told upon their return, “It is like you have just returned from the moon.” Our friends and family in the Midwest expressed much the same sentiment.

Ft Clatsop Oct2001
Cozy Ft Clatsop. It looks to me more like Lewis & Clark returned from the forest moon of Endor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. In 1846, after improving the designs of the bass clarinet and developing a series of valved bugles that would eventually lead to the widely beloved flugelhorn, Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax received a patent in Paris for his newfangled instrument that he oh-so-cleverly called the “saxophone.” Several years later in 1988, an unflinchingly patient band director named Mr. B. put an alto saxophone into my hands and despite his growing headache, listened to me squeak out a few notes with an encouraging smile plastered across his face. I played regularly for the next nine years and I’m happy to report I got better. In fact the famous composer Hector Berlioz, a good friend of Adolphe Sax, once described him as “a man of lucid mind, far-seeing, tenacious, steadfast, and skilled beyond words…” which is probably pretty much what my band directors said about me.

5. Born in Poland in 1867, Maria Sklodowska, remembered most often as Marie Curie, was the youngest child of two teachers. For many years her father Vladislav taught mathematics and physics and her mother Bronislawa ran a prestigious girls’ boarding school. Of the couple’s five children, four survived into adulthood. One became a teacher. Two became physicians. And one became a twice awarded Nobel Prize winner in both physics and chemistry. Like Madame Curie I am the youngest child of two teachers and I have three quite successful older siblings. I haven’t been awarded my Nobel Prizes yet, but there’s still time.

6. Originally a gold coin depicting King John II of France on a horse, the franc was first introduced in 1360 and was used to pay the ransom of the king who had been captured by the English during the 100 Years War. Over the years, France’s monetary system stabilized and though the currency itself changed, the name stuck and with the exception of a period of about 150 years, was used in France up until the complete changeover to the euro January 1, 2002. It happened that I arrived in Paris on that day to find long lines as vendors struggled to calculate exchanges between the old currency and the new. I didn’t ransom any kings on that snowy New Year’s Day. Instead I used my shiny new euros to buy a chocolate crepe and an overpriced stocking cap.

La tour en hiver
The next time I decide it would be a good idea to visit Paris in the middle of winter, I’ll buy a stocking cap at the local Farm & Fleet before I go. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7. Young Joseph Banks enrolled at Oxford University in 1760 and determinedly pursued as much natural history study as he could manage. A few years later in 1768 he departed with Captain James Cook’s first voyage to the South Pacific aboard the HMS Endeavor. Along with botanist Daniel Solander and artist Sydney Parkinson, Banks collected and documented over 1,000 animal species and more than 3,500 plant species, many of which were previously unknown to science.

I also studied as much natural history as I could while in college, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology in 2000, after which, I worked in the camping industry and went back to school to study literature. Okay, so maybe I haven’t contributed as much “scientific discovery” to the world as Sir Joseph Banks, but I do sometimes harbor a secret desire to sail away to some exotic island and discover a never-before-seen subspecies of newt. I bet with my intensive training in the art of basic sailing, I can probably make that happen.

English: Smooth Newt or Common Newt, Lissotrit...
“Angleton’s Newt” has a nice ring to it, I think. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And finally, the third part of the award is the super fun part, because I get to nominate not one, but seven lovely blogs. These are a little varied in their scopes, but each is lovely in its own way. I hope you’ll think so, too. The nominees are:

Bad Anemone Press

Surgically Surreal

Christopher De Voss

A Skeptical Designer

Life In Russia

Diana Staresinic-Deane


In Recognition of the Little Guy

In the fall of 1780, John Paulding of New York State went to pay a visit to his sweetheart Sarah Teed. Paulding stood at over six feet tall and while today this would hardly guarantee him a spot in the NBA, for the era, he was impressively large. Perhaps it was for this reason that Sarah’s brother decided to surround his sister’s beau (I’m guessing he didn’t approve of the relationship) with the help of several armed friends. Of course it could also have been because Paulding was a known Patriot and American militiaman while Sarah’s brother was an active Loyalist.

Not surprisingly, Paulding didn’t take kindly to the threatening nature of the encounter and opened fire on the Loyalists, injuring several before he was captured. Most of the attackers wanted to kill him on the spot, but Ensign Teed convinced them to spare the young man’s life, proving, I think, that a sister’s wrath is far more dangerous than a few gunshot wounds.

So instead, Paulding’s captors took him to the makeshift “Sugar House” prison set up by the British in New York City where he spent one night before escaping by jumping from a window in broad daylight, because (and again I’m just guessing here) he was also a ninja.

Mikya ninja
Tall and stealthy. Not a man to trifle with. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His next stop was the nearby livery stable where he scrounged up a green coat, of the type commonly worn by the German soldiers hired by the British to fight in much of the Revolutionary War. Once disguised, he made his way fairly easily back toward home, where a few days later it was business as usual (though I suspect he avoided the Teed household for a while) as he headed out on patrol with a couple of militia buddies, now wearing his new green coat.

The next part of Paulding’s story may be more familiar to those of you who are American Revolutionary history buffs because while on patrol, Paulding and his buddies (Isaac Van Wart and David Williams) came upon the British spy Major John André who was famously hanged for his collaboration with the American traitor Benedict Arnold.

John Andre
John Andre: “Nice Coat, man. So hey what do you think about the British. Pretty crazy, right?” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Relieved to see that one of the armed men he met was wearing a familiar, and usually friendly, coat, André began to feel out the men’s loyalties. Unfortunately for him, Paulding was as clever as he was tall and under his leadership, the three militiamen soon took the spy into custody, reportedly refusing an extravagant bribe. For their efforts, the three men were eventually awarded the first ever Fidelity Medallions upon the personal recommendation of George Washington.

The Fidelity Medallion. At least as prestigious the Liebster Award. Maybe even more. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

I tell you this story because some suggest that it is the oldest example of a military award being bestowed upon men of common birth. In other words, it was the first time anyone had bothered to recognize the little guy. Now, I can’t prove that’s true, and I kind of hope it isn’t. I’d like to think that people long before 1780 were willing to give a nod to their fellows, but then there is some truth, even well beyond the scope of the military, to the idea that often accolades go to recipients who don’t really benefit much from them while the little guy who could use a pat on the back, often goes unnoticed.

Nowhere near as prestigious as the Fidelity Medallion, but pretty great anyway.

So with that in mind, I am extremely honored to have the opportunity to pass on a wonderful blog award that was recently given to me. The Liebster Award recognizes blogs that don’t yet have a whole lot of followers (fewer than 200). In fact, I am truly amazed to say that I no longer fit the requirements for the award. Just about a week ago the editors at  Wordpress chose my recent post about the taxation of beards by Russia’s Peter the Great to be featured on Freshly Pressed. The response has been overwhelming. In one week, more than 150 new readers decided to follow my silly little history blog. Wow! And there are more new people who have dropped in to “like” or comment upon posts I have written.

I would like to say a big thank you to all of you who are new to my little corner of the blogosphere. Before you arrived, I had been writing for a pretty small audience about moments in history, my life, and the point at which the two occasionally connect, no matter how far I have to stretch it. Since my posts do require a fair bit of research to put together, there have been  times when I’ve been discouraged that there aren’t more people reading. And I know there are other bloggers out there just getting going and sometimes feeling a little frustrated that there aren’t many people reading. That’s why I am accepting the Liebster award, so that I can give a nod to other little guys out there.

The Rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.

2. You must answer the 10 questions given to you by the nominee before you.

3. You must nominate 10 of your favorite blogs with fewer than 200 followers and notify them of their nomination.

4. You must come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer.

Thank you very much to Rachel Malburg whose blog Simple.Fun.Raw could soon become my new favorite food blog. She had me at brownie bites.

The Questions:


I was a camp counselor, a job that taught me important things like how to build a perfect fire that can be started with only one match (after 10 or 12 tries), every last stinkin’ verse to the song Boom-Chicka-Boom, and how to make the perfect s’more (while hiding the leftover chocolate from the campers so that staff can eat it on the weekends)


I guess the most honest answer is that like so many of us blogging types, I am a writer, who wishes to someday be a bestselling author, or, at least to have someone maybe read my books and kind of like them. I guess, then, you could say I am in pursuit of the almighty platform. But beyond that, I always thought newspaper columnists like Dave Barry had the very best job in the world and with the death of print media, came the rise of the blog. So here I am.


Think Leave it to Beaver. More or less.


I’ve made a lot of plans in my life. Some have worked out. Some haven’t. But I can definitely say I am very happy with where I am right now.


The California Redwoods. It’s like hiking through a fairy tale.


There are simply too many places I’d like to go to answer that question. For right now, I’m working to complete the goal of reaching all 50 US states by age 50.


A home in Oregon just before the bottom fell out of the housing market. Sometimes adventure is expensive.


I’m kind of a crazy fish lady.


The Princess Bride. 26 years later, nothing has yet been able to top it.

And last but not least…


Okay, it’s possible that this was not the question actually put forward by Rachel, but it really isn’t fair to ask a writer to name her favorite book. And since you asked, he lived the life of a hero, died of natural causes, and now has many streets, parks, and elementary schools named after him. He also married Sarah Teed. I doubt her brother was invited to the wedding.

The Nominations: These are a few blogs that have piqued my interest, but that don’t have a huge following yet. Some are pretty new and are probably still working to find their voice, but worth watching, I think. A few have been around for a while and are just looking for their audience. Perhaps they will pique your interest, too.

1. Book Smart Literary Reviews


3. Barrywax

4. Biggest Ball of String

5. History Undusted

6. 25 True Stories

7. Ingilblogger

8. Not So Distant Past

9. Professor Mondo

10. Economics Courageous

As for questions to the nominees, um, same questions, I guess? Except maybe that last one. For that, you get a freebie.

It’s a Major Award!

The Leg Lamp at A Christmas Story House
The Leg Lamp at A Christmas Story House (Photo credit: Buy Leg Lamps)

My blog was recently nominated for the Sunshine Award. The award is a way for bloggers to recognize the efforts of fellow bloggers and express appreciation for writing they have found inspiring in one way or another. Wow!

So you can imagine my delight to find that another blogger, a very gifted one who knows a great deal more about history than I do, honored me with this nomination. Honestly, I was so excited, you would have thought I had just received a crate marked FRA-GI-LE (which is probably Italian).

You remember that scene from A Christmas Story, right? Ralphie’s dad has just received notice that he won a newspaper trivia contest by answering the question: “What was the name of the Lone Ranger’s nephew’s horse?” (It’s Victor, but I’m sure you already knew that). His major award arrives in a large crate during supper time and the whole family gathers around to see what’s inside.

When Mr. Parker pulls from the crate a lamp in the shape of a fishnet-stockinged leg with a fringed skirt shade, he can’t contain his enthusiasm. To his wife’s chagrin and his young sons’ amazement, Mr. Parker puts the lamp in a place of honor right in the middle of the front window for the whole town to admire.

The movie is based on the stories of Jean Shepherd including one titled: “My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award That Heralded the Birth of Pop Art.” (I think we should all just take a moment to appreciate how ridiculous and wonderful that title is). Shepherd’s lamp was inspired by an early advertising logo of the Nehi Corporation, a fruity soda company, whose ads featured the legs of a seated woman, her stocking visible up to the knee. The company’s bottle design at the time also incorporated a rope like pattern reminiscent of ladies’ stockings.

1932nehiad (Photo credit: lobstar28)

Though it is now nearly impossible to obtain Nehi soda, it enjoyed great market success in the United States through the middle of the 20th century with flavors such as: luau, chocolate, orange, peach, watermelon, blue cream, lemonade, pineapple, and fruit punch. Of course, the company sold a few of the flavors we would consider more traditional today as well and in the late 1950’s, the Nehi Corporation was renamed the Royal Crown Cola Company after its best selling flavor.

I’m guessing most of you are at least somewhat familiar with RC Cola. It’s that brand carried in a few restaurants that is often viewed as a acceptable alternative to the better Coca-Cola (and I suppose Pepsi fans might offer a similar description, but obviously they would be wrong). Nehi has been largely forgotten by most of us, except for perhaps the most devoted M*A*S*H fans who may remember that grape Nehi was Radar O’Reilly’s favorite soft drink.

Still, every year starting on Christmas Eve, 40 million of us tune into to TBS to watch at least a little bit of the marathon showing of A Christmas Story and Nehi enjoys a moment in the spotlight, as “the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window” of Ralphie Parker’s boyhood home.

“Major Awards” have a way of sticking with us long after they are broken and discarded. We love to be recognized. And so I am honored to accept and proudly display the nomination of the Sunshine Award. Here’s how it’s done: First, thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog. Second, answer a list of ten interview questions about yourself. Third, nominate ten blogs that have inspired you in some way, link to them and let them know you’ve nominated them.

So, thank you very much to Map of Time! Your posts are so thoroughly researched and informative, that really, they put mine to shame.

And the answers to the ten interview questions:

  1. What is your favorite color? That perfect shade of pink nightmare, just right for footed bunny pajamas.
  2. What is your favorite animal? Victor, the Lone Ranger’s nephew’s horse.
  3. What is your favorite number? This is a slight breach of etiquette, but I’m going right for the throat with the triple dog dare.
  4. What is your favorite drink? It was before my time, but I just know I would have been a big fan of blue cream Nehi. Rumor has it would even turn your teeth blue!
  5. What is your favorite pattern? Soda bottle fishnets.
  6. What is your passion? That yearly bacchanalia of peace on earth and good will to men.
  7. Do you prefer a good movie or a good book? I love it when a good book becomes a good movie. It rarely happens the other way around.
  8. Would you rather give or receive a gift? I love to give that unexpected surprise gift that someone has always wanted, like a “Red Ryder BB Gun with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.”
  9. What is your favorite day? Christmas, of course!
  10. What is your favorite flower? I’m quite fond of yellow daisies. Isn’t it pretty?


Finally, my nominations. One of the best parts about blogging is discovering the work of so many other talented writers. From among many, I have chosen ten that each inspire me in different ways. They all get an A+++++++++++++++++++ in my book.

1. Wine and History

2. Mowry Journal

3. The Laughing Housewife

4. Girl on Contrary

5. The Happy Logophile

6. Bottledworder

7. After the Kids Leave

8. samuelehall

9. The Nice Things About Stangers

10. revelinmomness