Monday, November 28, 2011

These are the times that try (our) souls...

Does this sound familiar?

"The Congress have met in a bad temper...grumbling at everything in order to avert the responsibility which they have incurred in refusing to provide the solid foundation for revenue and relying on loans.  They have suffered the specie to go out of the country, adopted a halfway system of taxation...and yet expect the war to be carried on with energy."

Could have been an analysis of the failure of the current Congress to act, but it was actually written in a letter to President Madison during the War of 1812.  The only part I took out was about the establishment of a national bank, the rest of it was true then as now.

The material is from the excellent 1812--The Navy's War by George C. Daughan.  I recommend the book to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of why this war helped establish the United States as the strong country it is today, and is especially pertinent as we prepare to commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, from 2012-2015.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

By request, here's the recipe for my Thanksgiving Pecan Cranberry bread.  It's non-dairy and freezes well.  It's also yummy.


Preheat oven to 350F, grease and flour a loaf pan

2 cups flour
1 Tbl. baking powder
1/2 tea. baking soda
1/2 tea. salt
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tea. ground cinnamon
1/4 tea. nutmeg
Optional: Hearty pinch each of ground ginger, cardamon, allspice, cloves
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 egg, beaten
1 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/4 c. vegetable oil

Combine 1st 7 ingredients (and optional spices) in a large bowl.  Stir in pecans and cranberries.  Make a well in the center of mixture.

Combine egg, applesauce and oil; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened.

Spoon mixture into prepared loaf pan.  Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until done.  Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove bread from pan and cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

May You Live in Interesting--and Healthy--Times

I was watching Boardwalk Empire this week and knew based on a previous episode's foreshadowing that a character had infantile paralysis--polio.  Polio was a constant fear in the lives of my parents growing up, and in their raising of us, up until the time that we stood in long lines at our schools to get doses of the oral vaccine.  Imagine what that meant to our mothers.  I can't.  I can't imagine the fear of a summer where every crowd might carry disease, where going to the lake was a cause for fear of contagion.  An elderly neighbor died recently, a gentleman who'd had polio as a child, recovered, but then in old age had a recurrence of the symptoms of weakness in his legs and other issues.  It was a slice of 20th century life carried through into a 21st century age of medical advances.

When I was researching Sea Change and my next novel, [working title] Castaway Dreams, I studied medical practices and beliefs of the early 19th century.  It gave me a renewed appreciation of the germ theory of disease, and clean running water, and antibiotics, and mosquito eradication programs to prevent yellow fever and malaria.  We live in amazing times, but I also developed a great deal of respect for the doctors of the 19th century who did they best they could with the tools and knowledge they had.

I look forward to a day where we will have vaccines against cancer and cures for AIDS.  During this week of Thanksgiving, I'm grateful to all of the hard working men and women who help to better our lives, and especially to those researchers of the past who ensured that I would never spend a summer fearing my children's exposure to polio. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

There's more of Florida than you think

I spent the weekend with friends at St. George Island in the Panhandle.  While it was too cold for swimming (at least for us natives--I did see tourists in the water), I walked along the powdery-white sand and enjoyed amazing sunsets and star filled skies.

We traveled up on backroads through some of the state's most beautiful scenery, part of the trip taking us through Apalachicola National Forest and the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.  This is the Florida so many tourists never see--the hardwood swamps and pine and oak forests, the rivers and springs, the salt marshes that support an amazing variety of wildlife.  You can keep South Beach, this is my favorite part of the state!  I love driving the backroads and stopping to stretch my legs in tiny towns like Sopchoppy and Carabelle and Fort White.  Each one is unique and has its own history that makes it special and worth a detour from the interstate. Recently I was out with a friend, to whom I'd promised a drive in the convertible and lunch after she finished chemo.  As I turned off on a back road she asked me if I knew where I was going.

"Not really," I said, "But  that's one of the good things about living on a peninsula.  I know if I drive for a while I'm either going to hit water or Georgia, and then I'll know where I am."

For the record, we didn't get lost and had a lovely lunch.

I also got to see a bit of downtown Apalachicola this weekend, a city I can now cross off my Florida "to do" list.  Pensacola is still on the list, a city that was the capitol of West Florida and next to St. Augustine one of our richest historical sites.  There's a lot of territory I haven't covered in my own back yard, and I may have to put the top down on the convertible and take a research road trip this winter.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank you

Thank you.  Thank you to my father, who was at Pearl Harbor, and my father-in-law, who was at Normandy Beach, and my brother who served in Viet Nam, and my other brothers who also served their country, and the neighbor boy who used to babysit for us and went to Iraq as a marine, and all the men and women who've served over our nation's history.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, USMC!

“I just want to keep you from trying anything suicidal. I seem to remember a cutter officer back in ’41 who walked into a tavern full of navy men in Key West, telling them they were nothing but ‘goatbuggering marines.’ It wasn’t the goat buggering that bothered them, they were sailors after all, but when you called them marines…”

--Smuggler's Bride

Unlike my characters in Smuggler's Bride, I've got nothing against the marines.  I want to take a moment to wish the USMC a happy birthday as they mark 236 years of fighting for the United States from the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli. Thank you!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Stephen Decatur, Steampunk hero!

During the War of 1812 US Naval hero Commodore Stephen Decatur was blockaded by the British and couldn't take his ships (including the frigate United States) out to sea.  According to historian George C. Daughan (1812-The Navy's War), Decatur was captivated by steam engineer Robert Fulton's inventions and his writings on torpedoes and submarines.  Fulton came to New London, CT where the Brits had Decatur bottled up, and wanted to try an invention he called an underwater cannon against the RN ships.  Decatur was all for this, but the experiment never came off.

Attempts had been made previously to harass the British with a bomb in a boat, and a submarine similar to the Turtle used during the Revolutionary War.  The Brits were offended by Decatur's use of "infernal machines" and threatened countermeasures if more attempts were made to destroy their vessels with exploding devices.

Decatur did eventually get back out to sea, but in January, 1815 he had to strike his colors when the USN President was severely damaged in a fight with HMS Endymion.  The war had officially ended in December, but no one on this side of the Atlantic had yet gotten the word.  Many Americans know the Battle of New Orleans was fought after the war ended, but there were plenty of other sorties which did not have to occur, a situation that became a plot point in Sea Change where a pivotal sea battle takes place in February, 1815.