Tag Archives: history

Welcome to My November

Jillian here. I hate to say my life is dull compared to some of you. Laurie with her cider making, Jane with her bike/car adventures, Lavada with her hidden state treasures visits, Kit’s gardening and Tricia’s trip all sound so much fun. I’m here trudging along with the day to day grind. Working the day job and writing on a new story for NaNoWriMo on my lunch hour and at home in the evenings. I was supposed to go to New York City in October but my traveling companion had an emergency arise with her mother in law so we postponed.

My older son is in for a visit this weekend so that’s a very nice thing. He’s always a pleasure to be around. We both have long been Liverpool football fans and usually both watch the matches and text each other while they are being played. This week, at 6:30 am central time, we’ll be up and watching in the same room for the first time in ages. Looking forward to it.

I have a new Christmas anthology out that was a lot of fun to write. I am working on this NaNo story that’s a pretty heavy subject matter and is much slower going as the level of angst is pretty deep. My inspiration for the story is the true experiences of Oney Judge. She was a slave owned by George Washington. She escaped and he never freed her -even after his death, so she technically died a slave even though she’d been living in a free state for years at the time she passed away.

The law in Pennsylvania at the time George was president was that if a slave lived there for six months, that slave became free. A lot of owners removed their slaves just before the time ran—even for a day or two—as that act would start the six months running again. George did the same thing.  It was a shameful time in our history and I’m tackling it in this story. It’s clearly not a romance though she does eventually find happiness as the true life lady did. It’s difficult to write how the slaves were treated as less than human. I can only hope I’m doing them justice.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate. And bless the families who lost loved ones in WWI as we come up on Veterans Day and the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. Would that their sacrifices in the War to end all Wars had been true.

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George & Louise…A Great Love by Valerie J. Patterson

George and Louise Boldt–their story is one of a great and deeply felt love.  It’s also a tale of tragedy and a future with a broken heart.  George was a poor immigrant in the late 1800s who managed to gain employment at the famous Waldorf Astoria, and later would own it and another hotel here in Pennsylvania.  It was while he was working at the Waldorf that he met Louise Kehrer and fell madly in love with her.  While vacationing in Alexandria Bay, more particularly, the Thousand Islands, he bought Hart Island, which he legally changed to Heart Island.  In 1900, he commenced building a castle there for his lovely Louise to live in.  In 1904, tragedy struck and Louise Boldt died suddenly at the young age of 41.  That same day, George sent a telegram to the island and ordered all construction to cease and all workers to leave the island.  The heartbroken George never stepped foot on Heart Island again.  He never allowed his children or their families to visit the island either.  Boldt Castle was 96% finished the day Louise died, and it would remain unfinished, too.  So great was his love for his wife, and just as great was his pain from losing her, that he could not bear to live there without her.

In 1977, the heirs of George Boldt sold the castle and Heart Island to the state of New York for $1.00 with the following conditions:  1) The castle was to be open to the public and every cent from the sale of tickets was to be put into restoring the castle, which had been vandalized over the decades it remained empty; 2) the restoration was never to go beyond 96% completion, which was the last Louise had ever seen; and 3) no one was ever allowed to live there or stay there.  To date, $38 million have been used in restoring the castle and only one and a half of the 6 floors have been fully restored.

Beginning at the top left corner and continuing clockwise, the photographs are: A view of 75% of Heart Island as seen from our hotel suite’s balcony; the Italian Garden at the rear of the castle with the castle’s power house (also a castle-like structure) in the background; the view of the castle’s main arch entrance where George imagined his guests docking their boats and visiting he and Louise at the castle–to the right is a 6 story playhouse he had designed and constructed for his children and their guests; a rear view of the castle; and, again, the arched entrance to the island.

Steve took me to the Thousand Islands for our anniversary trip, and I was instantly overtaken with the immense love George Boldt had for his wife.  I snapped over 500 photographs, and I apologize that I don’t have a closeup of the front of the castle for you, but those are on another camera card that I have not yet downloaded.

The entire time we were exploring the castle and its grounds on a self-guided tour, Steve and I discussed George and Louise.  All around us were visual signs of their love from heart-shaped flower beds to hand-carved granite benches with huge hearts carved out of the center of each bench’s backrest to the portraits of Louise to the Italian Garden with its carved granite statues.  We wondered what George would think of all the people tramping around the grounds and invading the castle.  We wondered how he would have looked upon the vandalism each room on each floor suffered from careless youths who didn’t know the story behind the castle or perhaps knew it and didn’t care.

As we sat on a magnificent porch, on a heart-shaped bench, I became weepy thinking about George and his immense love of Louise.  With all that Steve has been through this year, perhaps George’s story hit a little too close to home.  Or perhaps I’m just too softhearted and enjoy a good love story.  Maybe a little of both.  One thing I know for certain, George and Louise Boldt are now a part of my own history, and their love story reminds me to be thankful for my own love story!

Finally–so as not to leave on such a sad note–It has been my dream to own an island.  Strange dream, I know.  But ever since I learned that Raymond Burr owned his own island, I’ve wanted to own one myself.  During our stay in Alexandria Bay, we came to learn that there were 3 islands for sale.  The first one we saw had a price of $1.4 million.  The second one we saw had the hefty price tag of $5.5 million.  And the third one was selling for $80,000.  I’ll leave you with the photo of the third island, which is still swimming around in my thoughts as a possibility!

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It’s not the size of the house that matters, but rather the island itself that remains important to me.  <grin>

Until next time, may you be as loved as Louise!!  ❤

Boldt Castle

Showing Your True Colors by Valerie J. Patterson

I’m certain we’ve all heard the saying, “She’s showing her true colors“.  And I’m also certain we all know that it means to show one’s true self.  But did you know that this saying originally referred to ships in the heat of battle?  Warships would often fly multiple flags, each a different color, hoping to confuse their enemies.  However, rules of wartime dictated that prior to firing, the ship had to hoist its real country flag, hence showing its true colors.

I was thinking about the phrases and sayings we have grown up with and how each generation–it seems–has their own sayings, but that there are phrases that remain regardless of the passage of time.  I decided to look into the origins of some of the sayings and phrases I have always heard, and I was shocked by some, grossed out by others, and somewhat surprised to realize that I knew more about some than I would have thought.  Not sure what that says, but…here are some sayings and their origins.  Enjoy!

Spill the beans–of course, this means to tell a secret.  In ancient Greece, voting for candidates was conducted by depositing either a white bean (voting yes) or a black bean (voting no) into a container.  The candidate never knew who voted which way nor did they know the outcome until the beans were counted.  Occasionally, a clumsy voter would knock the container over and reveal the votes to the candidate, thus spilling the beans.

Waking up on the wrong side of the bed–of course this is often said of a grumpy person.  However, in “old times” the left side of the body and anything dealing with the left side was considered evil.  In order to ward off evil spirits, innkeepers would push the left side of the bed against a wall, giving guests only one option: to wake up on the right side of the bed!  As a left-handed person, I find this idea offensive! (wink)

No spring chicken–refers to someone past their prime, but it actually does refer to old chickens.  New England farmers got more money for chicks born in the spring rather than those born in the wintertime.  When times were lean, they attempted to pass wintertime chicks off as spring chicks and the wise buyer would reply, “That is no spring chicken!”.

Here’s one that surprised me:  Rule of Thumb–this means a benchmark, a go by.  It is said to have originated in England when 17th century judge, Sir Francis Buller ruled that husbands could beat their wives with a stick providing the stick were no wider than his thumb!  [Someone should have beat Sir Buller!]

Go the whole 9 yards–means to give it your best, your all, and try your hardest.  Fighter pilots of WWII were issued a 9-yard ammunition chain.  When a pilot used the entire chain on one target, he was said to have given it the whole 9 yards.

Here’s one that simply grossed me out: Cat got your tongue–obviously this means someone is at a loss for words.  But it actually originated from the practice of cutting out the tongues of liars and feeding them to cats!  Yick!!!!

So as not to leave you with that image, here’s one more.  I just found this one very odd:  Butter someone up–we take this to mean flattery, but it’s actually an ancient Indian custom of throwing balls of clarified butter at statues of gods to gain their favor.

I don’t know about you, but I doubt I will ever use the phrase cat got your tongue again!

Until next time, have a great weekend, and may your blessings always be more than you can shake a stick at!!!!

Happy President’s Day in the USA, Valentine’s Day, AND Mardi Gras

Today is President’s Day here in the USA- a day where we honor our presidents. When I was in elementary school, we had two holidays out of school in the early part of the new year – one was George Washington’s Birthday and one was Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. I always thought it was cool that “Honest Abe” and “Cannot Tell a Lie George” were celebrated so close together.

When Martin Luther King day came along, the powers that be combined George and Abe’s birthdays into one day- kind of like two kids having to share a birthday cake, huh? As the years went on, it seemed more and more companies didn’t take this day off any longer. I still take the day and allow my office to be closed. These men did a lot for our country- not least of which was one serving as the general in chief in the fight to establish this country and the other actually saving the young union when it was torn asunder by the Civil War. I, for one, honor them on this day and every day.

This past weekend was Valentines Day and I would be remiss as a romance writer if I didn’t wish that you all had a wonderful day. Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday, otherwise known as Mardi Gras. It’s the last day of feasting before Lent so if you give up something for Lent, better eat your fill today and tomorrow.

Happy various holidays this week! Enjoy!

Memories of Robbie’s Night

As you likely know, last Sunday was Burns’ Night, celebrating the life and work of the Scots icon, Robert Burns. Born in Alloway, Scotland on 25 January 1759, Burns wrote many poems but I didn’t know that he also wrote Auld Lang Syne. Well, you learn something new every day 🙂

The night always brings back happy memories. In the mid 1980s, AJ’s job meant that we had to move to Warwickshire (Shakespeare Country). We lived in a beautiful town not far from Stratford-upon-Avon and in the two years we lived there we had a very active and happy social life. We made wonderful friends, many of whom are still friends today, and were always out and about enjoying ourselves. We went to so many formal occasions – Masonic ladies’ nights, police balls, civic functions – that I splashed out on a really gorgeous evening gown. I still have the dress although, alas, I fear I could no longer fit into it. Nevertheless, just looking at it brings back a multitude of good memories and happy times.

One of the happiest occasions during our sojourn in Warwickshire was a Burns’ Night organized by a Scottish friend, Alec. It was a pretty raucous occasion and great fun. We still talk about it today. We stood by our seats at long tables while the haggis was piped in (I love the sound of bagpipes), followed by Alec reading the Address to the Haggis, the ode that Robbie Burns wrote for the dish. Back in those days I wasn’t yet a vegetarian, but remember not especially liking haggis.

During and after the meal, there were toasts to Robbie Burns and readings of his work. It wasn’t an especially serious affair and at one stage Alec, suitably dressed in his family tartan kilt, placed one foot on the table and made a toast. A little the worse for one too many whiskeys, he came dangerously close to revealing the answer to that age old question 🙂

It was a really fun evening, surrounded by good friends, good food (unless you count the haggis) and much laughter. I can never let the 25 January pass by without a toast to those happy times and wonderful friends.

History, Chocolate and Afternoon Tea

Earlier this month, we took a long weekend trip up to York. The city is rich in ancient history with many well-known landmarks like York Minster, considered one of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals, and Clifford’s Tower, originally built by William the Conqueror and rebuilt by Henry the third in the 13th century. But it was discovering the lesser known treasures and facts that I really enjoyed. ConstantineSuch as coming across this statue of Constantine the Great,and finding out that he was proclaimed Roman Emperor in York following the death of his father in the city. I hadn’t realized this, nor that York was the birthplace of other famous people such as Guy Fawkes and Dick Turpin. Fascinating stuff.

York is one of those cities which has many surprises. Its streets are narrow and and filled with interesting buildings, unlike so many UK cities which have one long wide main street filled with large and popular shops you can find in any other city. The ShamblesThe Shambles is illustrative of York’s streets. It is York’s oldest street and was mentioned in the Domesday book. The 15th century buildings lean precariously toward each other and in places the roofs almost meet in the middle. It is full of interesting little shops, cafes and restaurants, with various plaques sited along the way telling of its interesting history. The Shambles was voted Most Picturesque Street in Britain by Google in 2010.

St William's CollegeOne of my favourite finds was St Williams’s College. Built in 1465 for York Minster’s Chantry Priests. These were a community of priests who were paid in advance for praying for the souls of their deceased benefactors. Apparently, they were a drunken bunch and the then Archbishop of York decided they should be housed in a separate building of their own. Today the building is used as a venue for weddings, banquets and conferences.

We took a break from sightseeing to stop off for afternoon tea at Betty’s Tea Shop which is considered a must-do when visiting York. The queues for a table often stretch around the block, but we were lucky and sailed right in. York is also home to Rowntrees, the confectionery company founded in 1862, so a visit to York’s Chocolate Story Cafe and Shop was a must for a chocoholic like me! Here you can sample an amazing array of chocolate created in-house, washed down with a delicious hot chocolate from a range of flavours including lemon, strawberry, cappuccino or Madagascan dark. Delicious!

Andre’s Army’s Newest Recruits

I’ve long been a fan of violinist Andre Rieu, also known as the King of the Waltz. Andre travels all over the world conducting the Johann Strauss orchestra and regularly visits the UK, but for one reason or another I always seem to miss his concerts.

On my wish list for 2014 was a trip to see Andre, but I couldn’t find that he was due to visit the UK this year. AJ, who enjoys his music but wasn’t especially driven to see him in person, asked where the nearest concert would be and I discovered it was in Maastrict, Holland. ‘Book it’ my lovely hubby said. Just over an hour later I was the proud owner of two Andre Rieu tickets, Eurostar tickets and several intercontinental rail connection tickets, not to mention a cute little apartment rental in the centre of Maastrict. AJ, slightly dazed by the speed at which his normally procrastinator wife could move, smiled resignedly and poured himself a large glass of wine.

photo0609So it came to pass that the Joneses found themselves in the beautiful Vrijthof Square in Maastrict during July, taking part in what was in effect the largest (and noisiest) party we’d ever been to. The whole evening was magical. AJ, who is very British and normally quite reserved, was on his feet most of the time and singing and dancing along to waltzes, songs from the musicals, anthems and popular ditties. We both loved every minute, so much so that the moment we got home, and at AJ’s suggestion, we booked again to see Andre in December here in Birmingham, UK. Which means we are now officially members of Andre’s Army 🙂

Fabulous concert aside, there was much to do in Maastrict which boasts having the oldest bridge in the Netherlands (Sint Servaasbrug) and the oldest city gate (Hell’s Gate), both built in the thirteen century. SAM_0638My favourite trip was to St. Pieter’s Caves, an underground network of man-made tunnels. The caves were formed through the mining of marl, and it is thought the process goes back to Roman times. Today it is a labyrinth of over 20,000 tunnels. The close proximity of Maastrict to Germany meant that during the second World War the caves were used as a refuge for the people of Maastrict. The caves were prepared to shelter 50,000 people, with chapels, a hospital and schooling for the children. Evidence of this remains in the form of altars, paintings and poems written on the walls.SAM_0636

While I’m not a huge fan of enclosed spaces, it was hard to miss the opportunity to visit these amazing caves. The tour took about an hour and the low temperatures provided a welcome respite from the thirty degree heat outside. Our party was about fifteen strong and our way was lit by three lanterns carried by the group. It was easy to believe the tales of how people used to mark the walls in order to find their way back out of this labyrinth, as every couple of feet the caves seemed to branch out into scores of other minor tunnels. Apologies for the poor quality of the photos, I don’t think my little camera could cope with the atmospherics, and it’s slightly damp-palmed operator, although I did get through the tour without disgracing myself by going into full-blown panic mode. It really was a fascinating experience.