Tea Party Winners: Carla Gade's winner is Becky Dempsey, Andrea Boeshaar's winner Caryl Kane, Gina Welborn's winner Jasmine A., Carrie Fancett Pagels' winners book copy -- Lynda Edwards, teacup and saucer -- Wendy Shoults

Monday, December 4, 2017

Please Pass the Sweet Potato

 Being in the middle of the festive season, many of us have or will enjoy sitting down to a delectable dish of sweet potato, whether hidden under marshmallows or baked in a pie crust. Full of vitamins and nutrients, what’s not to love about this vibrant vegetable…unless it is the only thing you have to eat for months on end?

The following is an excerpt from my novel, The Patriot and the Loyalist:

Daniel approached the morning fire, bedroll tucked under his arm.
“Good morning, Sergeant,” Marion greeted from his place near the fire. “Have some breakfast.”
“Thank you.” Daniel took the sweet potato, their staple food the past week, and sat down on the log, letting his bedroll drop behind him. Dawn hugged the horizon, slow to dissipate the haze of blue still draped over the forest. A bird or two announced the day, but most of the men still slept. “What’s our next move?”
Before the Colonel had a chance to answer, Gabe stepped over the log and lowered himself beside Daniel. He wore a big grin, though his eyes remained glazed from lack of sleep. “Poor little lizard.” Gabe chuckled.
Daniel shook his head. Of course the kid had to remind him.
“What lizard?” The elder Marion leaned forward so he could see his nephew on the other side of Daniel.
“Just a little one looking for a warm place to sleep. Nights are getting cold out here. Seems Sergeant Reid isn’t one for sharing, though.” Gabe nudged Daniel with his elbow.
“First of all, it wasn’t that little of a lizard, and second of all, I like sleeping alone.”
“That explains why you’re out here with us,” the lad shot back.
His uncle gave a laugh, and then a censoring look.
Daniel peeled off the blackened surface of his sweet potato, dug out a chunk with the tip of his knife and took a bite of the lukewarm mush, reheated from last night’s dinner. “No, it’s fine. In a lot of ways he’s right.”
Francis Marion of South Carolina is considered by some as the father of modern guerilla warfare. During the years of 1780-1781 and his band were stuck behind British lines, camping in swamps to avoid detection. Their staple food – the sweet potato.


It is said Colonel Marion quite enjoyed his sweet potato, usually baked in their camp fire and eaten with no other utensil than a knife. Not all his men were so enthusiastic about the vegetable, so when meat was available, the colonel often forwent the luxury for the sake of his men. He claimed sweet potato was all he needed. 

Personally, I like sweet potato…but drizzled with butter and brown sugar. How do you like yours?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Quaker Worship: Listening in Silence

Horsham Friends Meeting – Horsham, Pennsylvania

Depending on where you live in the United States, you may know absolutely nothing about the Society of Friends (Quakers) or you may know quite a bit. I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania, which has been a stronghold of Quakerism for more than three hundred years. Some of my earliest ancestors on this continent were Mennonites who became Friends, and I still live about five minutes from Horsham Friends Meeting, which they helped found in the early 1700s. While I don't agree with all the tenets of modern Quakerism, I’ve attended Horsham Meeting many times over the years.

The novel I recently finished is a fact-and-fiction narrative that takes place in Horsham, with some of my eighteenth-century Quaker ancestors as characters. Obviously, writing about people who lived almost three hundred years ago requires quite a bit of research on just about everything. However, I found one thing that hasn’t changed much in three centuries: how Friends worship. I’d like to share that with you today.

Before I continue, let me point out that Friends now have two types of worship—“programmed” (similar to Protestant church services, with a pastor who preaches a sermon, singing, etc.) and “unprogrammed” (silent worship). I’ll be describing an unprogrammed meeting since that is how Quakers traditionally worshiped and it is what I’m familiar with.

Upon entering a Friends meeting house, the first thing noticed is generally the simplicity. The aesthetics of many meetings have changed little over hundreds of years. Horsham Meeting has stark white walls and wide-plank wood flooring. Some of the benches were originally used in the previous meeting house, which was torn down when the current (much larger) meeting house was built in 1803. Dark wood stain abounds—on the floor, the benches, the balcony above, and the square pillars and the separators between them—and the scent of wood and varnish (which I’ve come to love) fills the air. The separators are now raised and worshipers can sit anywhere, but years ago men and women each had their own side and the separators provided individual spaces for the Men’s Meeting and Women’s Meeting (the two met separately once a month, either during or after worship, to discuss business).

Meeting for worship begins with silence. Friends General Conference describes well the reasoning behind this: “Quaker worship is based on silent waiting, where we expect to come into the presence of God. In this living silence, we listen for the still, small voice that comes from God through the Inward Light. Worshiping together in silence is a way for a community to be brought together in love and faithfulness."

During the meeting, anyone who feels inspired to speak will stand (or sometimes sit, in the case of elderly members) and say what's on their heart. They may quote Scripture, a poem, or text from a book; describe how the Lord is working in their life; offer a prayer; or speak about something important to them or to Friends as a whole (such as social justice issues). After the message is given, the speaker will sit and the silence again resumes. Other Friends then speak as they are led, changing the subject or building on (or refuting, occasionally) what others have said. And in the rare case that someone's message causes concern for any reason, a "weighty" Friend will stop them with a kind but firm, "Friend, thee has said enough." After about forty-five minutes to an hour, someone (usually an elder) will shake hands with another person, indicating that worship has ended, and everyone then shakes hands with those around them.

In Colonial times, Friends neither sang nor participated in any type of music at any time, but singing and playing musical instruments, as well as other creative arts, are now quite acceptable and encouraged in the Quaker community. I expect that some meetings sing more than others. At Horsham, I remember singing only during Christmas Eve worship. And while meetings generally last less than an hour now, they traditionally could go on for two or three hours (or more). Many meetings now also have what they call First Day School, or Sunday school for children.

While the Mennonite church is my home (sometimes what goes around comes around), I must admit that there is beauty and purpose in silent worship. We live in a busy, noisy world, and I daresay that the devices so popular in our current culture battle to make silence a thing of the past. “God gave us two ears and only one mouth,” an elderly Quaker woman told our meeting years ago. “He speaks with a still, small voice, and how are we to hear Him unless we’re silent?” How, indeed?

If you have any questions about an unprogrammed meeting, I’d be happy to answer them. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving - Before the Football and Shopping

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Not for the turkey, or the football, or the shopping. Definitely not the shopping. But for what it stood for originally. Lest we forget:
By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.

Whereas it is
the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States
to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then
unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

My Heart Belongs in the Shenandoah Valley: Lily’s Dilemma by Andrea Boeshaar -- Review by Tina St.Clair Rice

Review by Tina St. Clair Rice
This story is set in 1816 Middletown, Virginia where Lillyanna “Lily” Laughlin lives with her Aunt Brunhilda “Hilda” Gunther and two younger brothers, 14-year-old Jonah and 12-year-old Jed. Since the recent death of her father, Lily now cares for her brothers as well as their small farm and home.  However things soon change when she learns she no longer owns part of the land across from her beloved home.  Her guardian, Silas Everett, sold it without even discussing it with her and her family to a stranger, Captain McAlister “Mac” Albright.  I enjoyed the way Lily and Mac initially meet, although it was rather embarrassing for Lily, and hoped maybe something more than friendship would develop between them.  Unfortunately Lily and her family's troubles were only beginning thanks to a very deceitful and evil man.  Lily and her family quickly became favorite characters.  I admire Lily’s dedication to caring for her family. Not only is she lovely and has a beautiful singing voice, she has a giving heart, strong work ethic, kind spirit and strong faith. Will her new neighbor see all those godly qualities in her?

I felt for Mac and the reason he left his family home and moved to the Shenandoah Valley.  He has had his own troubles in the past but with his friend, John Blake to help, he hopes to make a fresh start in Middletown.  Will his past troubles follow him there?  He soon became another favorite character in this story.  He is physically strong...and very handsome...which he will need in order to work the farm and orchard he just bought, and his honesty and integrity are admirable.

Mac’s friend John, Lily’s two brothers and aunt, along with some of the other secondary characters are just as endearing and bring much to the storyline.  John especially, who is lighthearted and fun and often brings smiles and laughter.  There is one character who I did not like at all, Silas Everett.  He is an evil, conniving man, out for his own selfish wants regardless how he obtains them or who he hurts in the process. 

The author certainly developed the characters in this story well...some I grew to love and one I did not like at all.  The characters experience humor, more than one sweet romance developing, adventure and suspense, deceitfulness and conniving, evil intentions, trust….others and oneself as well as trusting and learning God’s plan for each of them, love and faith. I enjoyed the spiritual aspect of the storyline.  Oh, I love the ending, perfect!

The historical details and descriptions of the Shenandoah Valley are beautifully done and invite the reader to step off the pages into the valley itself. The author has a note in the back of the story explaining the history of Middletown of 1826 which is very informative.  I like that the stories in each of the My Heart Belongs series (10 stories) are based on actual historical locations and plan to read the other 8 that I have not read yet.

~I received an e-book copy via Net Galley (no monetary gain were exchanged), this is my honest review~

Bio: Tina St.Clair Rice is Colonial Quills' Reader/Reviewer. A former nurse, Tina lives in Maryland with her family. Tina enjoys Christian historical fiction and is a beta reader for several authors.

Marie Antoinette and the Intrigues of Louis XVI’s Court

Now that the Northkill Amish Series is finished, I’m back to work on my American Patriot Series. Next up is Book 6, Refiner’s Fire, in which we’re going to catch up with the American commissioners in Paris, who negotiated France’s support in the war with Britain. In this episode Jonathan Carleton’s uncle, Admiral Alexandre Bettár, le comte de Caledonne, sweeps Elizabeth Howard off to France to remove her from the reach of assassins sent by British General Henry Clinton to kill her after her rescue from a British prison ship in New York Harbor.

Caledonne is highly connected at the French court, so Elizabeth is going to end up being drawn into life at court during the reign of King Louis XVI. For this book I’m delving deeply into what was going on at Versailles during 1778 and 1779. There’s always a multitude of complicated and dangerous intrigues swirling in the shadows of every royal court—and especially so in France—which happily will provide plenty of opportunities for getting Elizabeth neck-deep into even more hot water.

Marie Antoinette at the age of thirteen,
Joseph Ducreux
A major player, of course, will be Marie Antoinette, the queen who, along with her husband, Louis XVI, met a tragic end in the French Revolution during the Reign of Terror. Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna was born on November 2, 1755, at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, the youngest daughter of Maria Theresa, empress of the Habsburg Empire, and Francis I, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1770 she was married to Louis-Auguste of France, her second cousin once removed and the French dauphin, or heir to the throne, first by proxy in Vienna, and then in a lavish ceremony in the royal chapel at Versailles, before more than 5,000 guests. She was 14 and he was 15. She would go down in history with the French form of her name: Marie Antoinette.

Life as a public figure was not easy for a young girl. She was dropped suddenly into struggles for power, prestige, and financial gain between royals and nobles, the king’s brothers and devout aunts, and his ministers, diplomats, and other advisors, played out through highly complex French customs of etiquette and modes of address. Any influence wielded by women was unofficial, and since romantic liaisons were de rigueur at court, the greatest influence belonged to mistresses rather than wives.

Marie Antoinette in Court Dress,
Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, 1778
Let’s take a look at how the court scene would have appeared. According to long tradition, women were expected to wear a round spot of rouge on each cheek. This wasn’t the delicate highlighting you’d see today, but huge, precisely drawn scarlet circles. Rouge was very expensive, and so a badge of rank and distinction. Mozart, for one, thought the French court makeup detestable, “unbearable to the eyes of an honest German.” Sounds like it! One’s hair also had to be powdered. The queen popularized hair styles called poufs, monstrous affairs supplemented by wool, tow, pads, and wire up to three feet high and topped by the panache, a spray of feather plumes, as you can see in the portrait at right.

The portrait also shows the cumbersome court dress with its wide hoops. Managing the long, heavy train was an art form. Young ladies who were to be presented at court had to be coached by a special dancing master in Paris to move in a “Versailles glide” without seeming to touch the ground, and to make the three requisite curtsies, which began at the door, with modesty and grace. And then the lady’s appearance was likely to be torn to pieces by the spectators. The queen gradually began to make changes in court customs, abandoning heavy makeup and wide-hooped panniers. The new fashion she introduced called for a simpler look, initially in the rustic robe à la polonaise style.

View from Place d'Armes, c. 1722, by Pierre-Denis Martin
In contrast to the tortuous formality of the court, there was an extraordinary lack of security at Versailles. Royal bodyguards did use spaniels to ferret out vagrants who set themselves up in the palace’s various nooks and crannies, but there wasn’t much else they could do. Traditionally every French subject had the right of access to their sovereign, so the palace was open to the public. As a result random people wandered in and out, thronging the antechambers and even at times trying to push into the royals’ private apartments. A public dinner was held regularly, called the grand couvert, and anyone who was decently clothed could come to watch the royals eat. Men were required to wear a sword, but if that was lacking, one could be obtained at the palace gates.

Fishwives and market women held a customary right of access to the queen and used the privilege to comment freely on her perceived failings and those of the princesses. Then there were the royals’ beloved pets. Dogs, cats, monkeys, and other animals had free rein in the palace, roaming over the furniture and even on the table at meals. It was common for foreigners to remark on how dirty the place was! I can just imagine. Ugh!

As far as privacy was concerned, the king and queen were attended at every moment by numerous nobles except during the most intimate marital act—which, however, could not be accomplished without witnesses to the king’s trip to the queen’s suite! This in itself was a problem. Louis didn’t consummate the marriage for 7 years, which, as you can imagine, strained their relationship, the more so since they were expected to speedily produce an heir. In the fishbowl that was the royal court, rumors were bound to fly, and so they did, including the claim that Louis was incapable of sexual relations. Part of the complication may have been that they had met only two days before their wedding and were almost complete strangers. He was also shy, and both were young and inexperienced.

Marie Antoinette and Her Children,
Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, 1787
It surely didn’t help that the French public was hostile to the union. France’s alliance with Austria had drawn the country into the disastrous Seven Years’ War, which had ended in defeat by the British, the loss of Canada and France’s Caribbean colonies, and a massive national debt. His cold behavior toward her in public fueled the gossip but was evidently due to his fear that she would attempt to manipulate him in favor of Austrian interests. They did develop an affectionate relationship, however, and their marriage was finally consummated in 1777. After 8 years of marriage, Marie Antoinette gave birth to Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, Madame Royale, who was born at Versailles on 19 December 1778—with numerous royals and nobles looking on! They eventually had 4 children, one of whom died in infancy.

Since Marie Antoinette had very few official duties, she passed the time by forming deep friendships with her ladies in waiting at court and eventually befriended a number of her male admirers—the source of more malicious gossip. She spent most of her time devising social events and indulging her extravagant tastes. While the country was in the midst of a serious financial crisis and the common people were suffering great want, she spent huge amounts of money on the latest fashions and creating new ones, all manner of luxuries, and gambling. In spite of her initial popularity, a growing number of people turned against her. Widely circulated newspapers and cheap pamphlets spread vicious, pornographic gossip about her, calling her the“Austrian whore,” accusing her of sympathizing with France’s enemies, particularly her native Austria, and doing everything she could to undermine France, charging her with adultery, and even calling the parentage of her children into question. Increasingly she became the focus of the French people’s rage.

In reality, it was the 18th century colonial wars, including the Seven Years War and the American Revolution, that buried France under a mountain of debt. Those who owned most of the property paid little or no taxes, leaving the rest of the people saddled with an unreasonable burden. The natural result was growing resentment against the conspicuous spending of the king, queen, and nobles, which came to a head in 1789 with the beginning of the Revolution.

A side note: There’s no evidence that Marie Antoinette ever said “Let them eat cake,” when she was informed that the French peasants had no bread and were starving. That tale arose from the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions, written around 1766 when she was 11 years old. In fact, Marie Antoinette, who had been raised in a court where the monarchs believed that they were responsible for the welfare of their subjects, carried out many notable acts of charity during her reign. One observer wrote: “She was so happy at doing good and hated to miss any opportunity of doing so.” That she didn’t curtail her extravagant spending, however, was one of the factors that eventually led to her death on the guillotine.

All things considered, there’s more than enough juicy fodder here for a really entertaining plot for Refiner’s Fire. And I mean to make the most of it!
J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers and a lifelong student of history. She is also an author, editor, and publisher. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. Northkill, Book 1 of the Northkill Amish Series coauthored with Bob Hostetler, won Foreword Magazine’s 2014 Indie Book of the Year Bronze Award for historical fiction. Book 2, The Return, releases April 1, 2017. One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story, was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year.