Thursday, April 29, 2010


By, Roberta C.M. DeCaprio

I have to admit it, I’m a girlie girl . . . always have been and always will be. I love porcelain dolls dressed in delicate lace, the color pink, canopy beds, nail polish, make-up and above all, perfume. Some of my recent favorites are Chanel’s, Number 5, Clinque’s, Aromatic Elixir and Estee Lauder’s, Super Estee. In high school I wore Coty’s, Emeraude, Dana’s, Ambush and Prince Matchabellie’s, Wind Song . . . not to mention Love's, Lemon and Baby Soft, Chantilly Lace and Oh de London. As a throw-back from my hippie days, I also dabbed on a hint of sandalwood oil and different fragrances of musk; as well as my old staple, Patchouli.

My perfume fetish is something I’m proud of, especially when someone takes the time to ask, “What’s that scent you’re wearing?” So, I did a little research on what the pioneer women wore to smell nice, other then a dab of vanilla extract behind the ears. Thanks to the Crunchy Chicken and several sites on Lemon Verbena, this is what I came up with.

Remember Little House on the Prairie and Laura’s fascination with her teacher, Miss Beadle, who wore lemon verbena perfume? If you were a fan of the show, Mr. Edwards gave Laura lemon verbena perfume in two episodes. So, what better thing to learn as a pioneer skill than how to make your own lemon verbena perfume?

What exactly is lemon verbena and where did it come from?

Lemon verbena (or Lemon beebrush, Aloysia triphylla) is a deciduous perennial shrub native to Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. This plant was brought to Europe by the Spanish in the 17th century where it was used widely in perfume in the 18th century.

It grows to a height of 3 to 7 metres and exudes a powerful lemony scent. It prefers full sun, a lot of water, and a light loam soil. It is sensitive to cold, losing leaves at temperatures below 0°C although the wood is hardy to -10°C. Lemon verbena, if covered with some straw, cut down and kept free from very moist conditions, will also withstand up to a -15°C frost and will make new leaves in spring. The light green leaves are lancet-shaped, and its tiny flowers bloom lavender or white in August or September.

Lemon verbena leaves are used to add a lemony flavor to fish and poultry dishes, vegetable marinades, salad dressings, jams, puddings, and beverages. It also is used to make herbal teas and can be used to make a sorbet.

Lemon verbena has medicinal purposes as well. Traditionally, it has been used to treat asthma, fever, colds, flatulence, stomach upset and diarrhea. Today, even though the herb lemon verbena can be used in savory dishes and for medical reasons, it is still a fragrance widely used in perfumes. Lemon verbena has a woodsy scent, which helps add spiciness to many fragrances. And, because of the woodsy smell, lemon verbena in cologne makes a great scent for men as well as women.

If you’re interested in making your own batch of lemon verbena perfume, all you need to start is 100-proof vodka. The vodka, as a carrier for your perfume, is almost completely odorless and evaporates quickly when used on the skin, leaving behind just the fragrance. Combine about 24 drops of lemon verbena essential oil with two teaspoons of distilled water and two teaspoons of vodka. Pour all ingredients into a dark glass bottle and let them steep for at least 48 hours. Shake the bottle occasionally to mix the scent.

In the book, Gone with the Wind, lemon verbena was one of Scarlett O'Hara's mother's favorite scents. During that era, people made lemon verbena lavender perfume using pure essential oils. Lemon verbena lavender perfume makes a great combination since the lavender provides a relaxing scent while lemon verbena is refreshing. Bergamot acts as a refreshing top note. Start with 1/4 cup vodka and add 1/2 teaspoon lemon verbena oil, 5 drops of lavender essential oil and 5 drops of bergamot essential oil. Store and mix as above.

Now, I ask you ladies, who needs Estee Lauder?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Fort Ross...and an Easter Recipe

Fort Ross, California, a former Russian trading post, is now a state historical landmark, 13 miles northwest of the mouth of the Russian River and 80 miles north of San Francisco. The fort represents the southern-most penetration of 19th century Russians who wished to establish a base on the California coast for sea otter hunting (which was relentless) and for the development of agricultural supplies for Russian settlements in Alaska.

In June 1812, a crew of 95 Russians and 40 Aleuts began to build a redwood fort and stockade on an elevated coastal plateau, and the Czar soon issued an edict closing the Pacific Coast north of San Francisco to all but Russian ships. The Russian government's attempt to control the region was responsible for that part of the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 which declared the New Would was no longer open to aggression by force and European countries could not extend their holdings in it.

With the horrific extermination of the sea otters and fur seals by the Russians, Americans, and British, the Russians increased agriculture and manufacturing in their California colony, but had little success. By the end of 1839, the officials of the Russian American Company ordered the colonists to sell out and return to Alaska. And Captain John A Sutter of New Helvetia (Sacramento) paid $30,000 in produce and gold for the property. For the next several years, his men demolished some of the buildings and removed the arms, equipment and livestock the Russians had left behind.

After 1845, the fort area became the center of a large ranch, its buildings used in various ways. The G. W. Call family purchased the fort and ranch in 1874. After the 1906 Earthquake destroyed the the Chapel, the fort site was purchased by the California Historical Landmarks Committee of San Francisco and presented to the State of California. Restored in 1955-57, Fort Ross is now open to visitors.

In honor of my Russian heritage, I thought I’d share a recipe today for Paska, otherwise known as Easter Bread.

2 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup light cream or half and half
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon yeast
1/2 cup raisins and glazed cherries, mixed

Heat milk, half and half and butter till butter melts. Add to
remaining ingredients in the order your machine requires. Add the
raisins/cherries when your machine stops for adding "extras".

Use the dough setting. Punch down. Traditional way to bake is to place dough in a coffee can to make the traditional "top hat" shape to bake, but it also works as a round loaf when baked on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350F., about 25 minutes. Cover top with foil for last 10 minutes if it appears to be browning too quickly.
Will make two small loaves, or one large one.


~Tanya Hanson

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Historical Journey

Today is the release date of my first published book, TAME THE WILD WIND. Like most authors, I used to dream about this day. I probably spent more time dreaming than writing. It seems like I've always been interested in history and romance and writing - they fit naturally together, just like the old commercial where the candy bar falls into the peanut butter jar! I'd like to discuss historical research but with a twist - immersion into the world you're creating. In some cases this may be impossible, but I think you'll get the idea....

I rode in an 1880s stagecoach when I was 19. It was held up by masked bandits. The seats were narrow boards and we were all squished inside. I felt every jolt and start and stop of the horses. Not a comfy ride, and that was only an attraction at Angel's Camp, a historic gold-mining town in northern California. At 19, I'd already completed 3 or 4 historical romances and kept a ready eye out for research moments like this. As I rode in the stagecoach, I examined the interior: the thinly padded leather seat behind my back; the small lanterns inside. The narrow bench in the middle where the unfortunate occupant would have nothing to support him. I couldn't imagine traveling more than a few miles in such a contraption, but this was a viable means of transportation in the not so distant past. Ditto riding in a steam train at Allaire State Park in New Jersey.

Renaissance festivals and military reenactments are also a good source for the feel of a certain era. I recently attended the Crystal River Civil War Reenactment in Florida. Since Jed Hazard, the hero in TTWW is a former Union soldier, watching a battle unfold was interesting and exciting. The officers waited on the sidelines from their safe perches on horseback, giving orders and watching the fray. Women in bonnets and soiled aprons ran behind lines of soldiers, bringing bandages and water. Young drummer boys with sooty faces stayed out of the worst of it, while rebel yells and gunshot abounded. The best was to come - walking among the camps and seeing how soldiers lived was an eye-0pener. They cleaned their weapons, cooked food, drank from canteens, fed horses and dogs, polished boots, patched torn uniforms, smoked corncob pipes, and talked around the fire on wooden chairs or felled logs. There was even a demonstration of a medical tent replete with a cigar-smoking surgeon calling for ether to knock out a potential amputee, nurses crying over the dead, and a chaplain loudly urging the heavens to accept this "poor lost lamb who will no longer feel pain."

These reenactments are also well supplied with vendors, but of the authentic variety. I bought my son a handmade wooden sword and shield (ok, not Civil War, but at least not made in a store!) and they had rock candy, kettle corn, handmade dresses and bonnets, and then the antique dealers were there with hair receivers, mourning brooches, kid leather ladies' gloves, and other samples of daily life in the era.

I grew up in England, and still recall Sudeley Castle's jousting tournaments and medieval fairs. It was like Medieval Times but without the commercialism. Falconry was displayed the way it had been done for hundreds of years, powerful horses were bedecked in armor and colors of their knights, and the knights themselves - whoo boy! Ladies in flowing gowns and headpieces, jugglers, fire eaters - the list goes on. We visited many stately homes and castles, and it was easy to imagine living in another time! Walking on old parquet or ancient stone floors, peering into gigantic gilt-framed mirrors, examining period costumes or bed hangings and tapestries - this was food for my eager little researcher's mind. When Henry VIII's Hampton Court went through a disastrous fire in the 1980s, my mom toured it months later. They were ushered through one of the rooms that had not been restored, and a lingering red tapestry fringe still hung on the wall. Apparently, during the fire, the firemen had sliced the tapestries from the walls where they were bolted on. The fringes and borders remained. Well, being the "research assistant" she is, Mom grabbed a string and kept it. I later embroidered this 10 inch long, 500-year old faded red thread into a little keepsake for her. That little thread could tell stories, I'm sure!

I hope you enjoy reading historical romance for many more years to come. Immerse yourself in a story the way the writer has. Live the history. Feel the romance and joy. Lose your heart in a book!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Men of the West

While thinking of the men who ‘tamed’ the west, lawmen, outlaws, cattlemen and cowboys, gamblers, miners, farmers, preachers and doctors come to mind, as well as a few others, but for my latest release, Boot Hill Bride, the hero is one rarely recognized—a chef. Hog (Howard) Quinter, loves to cook and sets a goal to create the most elegant restaurant/hotel Dodge City ever hosts. When he’s caught in bed with the daughter of the man running for Governor of Kansas, his dream becomes a nightmare.

Everyone who’s ever taken a road trip knows the excitement of getting out of the car and having a good meal. That excitement was there in the 1800’s as well. Restaurants, cafés, eateries, roadhouses, hotels, boarding houses, or whatever we want to call them, were as important to towns as saloons and churches.

Just today we returned from another trip to Kansas to see family, and once again I didn’t find the time to get over to the eastern part of the state where there is a small town, Brookville (population 239), that I want to visit. For years the town boasted one of America’s oldest and longest running restaurants. (The family who has owned the restaurant for the last 100 years opened a replica of the original restaurant up near the interstate several years ago.)

The literature I’ve read says the railroad’s arrival in 1870 made Brookville a central hub for the Texas cattle drives coming up the Chisholm Trail and the town soared with growth, hosting every type of business needed to keep the cowboys and railroad men happy—including an opera house. Less than twenty years later, the trains moved their hubs to Junction City, KS, and the town shriveled, yet continued to survive until an army base was built nearby and brought thousands of soldiers. Then, after the war, when I-70 was built the less traveled highway traveling through Brookville soon became cracked and overgrown leaving the town all but forgotten once again.

Established as the Cowtown Café in 1870 the cafe served meals to buffalo hunters, cowboys, railroad men, soldiers, travelers, and a host of others including local residents. In 1894 the name was changed to the Brookville Hotel. Their chicken dinners are what made them legendary.

It was a few years ago that I picked up the literature about the Brookville Hotel while we were traveling along the interstate and after reading about the restaurant I knew I had to create a hero who loved to cook.

Boot Hill Bride, The Quinter Brides Book 3 was released in print this week and will be released in e-book on April 16th. Here’s the blurb and a short excerpt:

Howard (Hog) Quinter is hell bent on getting The Majestic, the finest hotel and restaurant west of the Mississippi, open by May 1st. The last thing he needs is interference from his family, but that’s exactly what he gets when Ma Quinter strikes one brisk morning. Sound asleep, Howard rolls over to discover a lovely young woman lying beside him, however, standing at the foot of the bed are his mother, the girl's father, and a blubbering preacher reading wedding nuptials.

Randilynn Fulton runs from a forced marriage to her aunt in Dodge City, only to discover Aunt Corrine is one of Danny J’s brothel girls. If she stays, Randi may become one as well, which would damage her father's chance at running for the Governor’s seat. But it gets worse when she finds herself in the middle of what she ran from—a shotgun wedding, and she’s the bride.


Even sitting here, stinging from the cold of the night, his fingers tingled, wanting to touch her silky skin, caress the curve of her back and examine those perfect dimples—

“Holy shit!” Snake exclaimed under his breath.

Howard snapped his head up. Both of his brothers stared over his shoulders, their mouths agape, and their eyes as round as biscuits.

“What?” he asked, twisting his neck to follow the trail of their gazes. His jaw went lax, the bottom of his chin all but slapped against his chest. The sight he stared at knocked the air out of him harder than being thrown off a wild bucking bronc.

Inside the canvas, the flickering light of the lantern made his tent glow brighter than the moon. The white, heavy tarp had become pale yellow, and a dark silhouette moved about inside the gently billowing sides. It was a moment before his eyes locked on the shadow and registered what he saw, sending the impulse to his brain.

Randi was undressing, and the light projected each movement against the canvas screen more clearly than the finest painter could create. Her graceful, womanly profile moved with perfection as she drew her gown over her head. The contours of her breasts, flat stomach, the inward arch of her lower back, and her long, slender legs became clearly visible to onlookers.

“Shit!” Howard leaped to his feet. Almost as an afterthought, he grabbed the hat off his head and swiped it at both of his brothers, knocking theirs askew. “Turn around!” he demanded before storming off toward his tent.

Jogging across the grass, he shouted, “Randi! Randi! Dowse the light!”

The silhouette inside stalled.

“Dowse the light!” he repeated.