The dining room light and dark

Originally posted on Restaurant-ing through history:


Diners are not usually aware of lighting in restaurants but it plays an important role in making them comfortable – or not – and in conveying a sense of what kind of space they are in.

Although psychologists say that humans, like other animals, prefer to eat in a dim, safe space like a cave, darkness has not always been prized. The specific meaning of lightness and darkness in restaurants is encoded in history and has varied through the decades.

Here is the simplified version: In the 19th century darkness in an eating place usually signaled that it was disreputable, that it entertained the sort of guests who would not be welcome in polite society. But this equation changed in the 20th century as it became easier and cheaper to provide light. Places with bright lights, first thought attractive, became viewed by many as garish and cheap. Darkness, or at…

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A Writer’s Deadly Sins

Woe is me.
Woe is me.

Yes, there are people in Central American dictatorships happy to have a pencil and the U.S. may be traveling down the same path, but this post is ABOUT ME–the self indulgent/self-pitying writer post.

Why can’t I be a super successful and talented marketing and writing phenom? Why, why, why? I lamented with the mountains at my back, our chickens at my feet and bitter tears in my eyes.

My husband had a rare day off. When I got to the part where I blamed God for never giving me what I want, he’d had enough. “Adrienne, I get why you’re upset that you didn’t win that writing contest but . . .” (I hate his buts) ” but think about your childhood dreams–haven’t they all come true?”

“Well, I guess so,” I said grudgingly, but . . .”But I don’t have a book on the New York Times bestseller list. Maybe God wants me to be a failure.”

My husband lowered his hat to shade his eyes (he knows I can tell when he’s frustrated by the size of his pupils). “Yeah, you just grow all our food and have this great flower garden and healthy animals, but whatever.”

We were quiet a minute. Then he said, “Remember how you sunk into a week long despair over not doing as many good works as Pope John Paul II? Remember how jealous you were of his funeral?”

013“Okay, yes, I remember, but I still want the kids to hire a choir to perform FAURE’S IN PARADISUM  at my funeral,” said I.

“Yes, dear,” he said (I hate when he calls me dear).

After watering the goats I sat beneath an enormous oak tree (my summer writing spot). The sun lit the hay bales across the field in gold and the robins sang all around. In the distance a cow bellowed. What a perfect evening this would be if only I had an iced coffee. I thought to myself, never satisfied.

That very morning on Amazon a new review appeared for my second book. The reader had enjoyed BOOK ONE and BOOK TWO and waited for the next. I’d hardly enjoyed the rating because after all it was only one person–not a big club or an important paper praising my work.

My husband’s words came back. Everything you wanted:

A farm with chickens. Yes.

A life in the country. Yes.

A pile of good kids. Yes.

Time to write (in a field!!!!). YES!

A wonderful husband . . . of course, but . . .

Pride is a devil’s aphrodisiac.

and that’s where I go down the wrong path so many times.

Imagine the day I would have had if I actually thought about this lone reviewer setting aside time to not only read but review my books on multiple sites. We all have busy days, but I confess that I think mine is busiest. Oh, the self-absorption!

OKAY, GOD, my apologies yet again.

That night one of my daughters came into the kitchen. I’d forgotten that she was reading book two. We talked and laughed about Buck Crenshaw’s family,  his luck and  his not-so-stellar decision making skills. As a high-school student, my daughter completely related to the peer pressure Buck was under at West Point. She got the jokes and she liked Buck.

A few years ago my stories were hidden. The idea of designing book covers never entered my mind. Wearing a pin on my lapel announcing to the world I wrote stories was out of the question.

Do you write for awards? My husband asks.

No. When my mind is clear I write for those moments when I can laugh and talk (either to myself or others) about Buck Crenshaw.

Pride and ingratitude so often get in the way of that.

A Brief History of Ultramarine—The World’s Costliest Color

Originally posted on First Night Design:
Originally posted in The Paris Review. Full title: The Virgin in PrayerArtist: SassoferratoDate made: 1640-50Copyright © The National Gallery, London Michelangelo couldn’t afford ultramarine. His painting The Entombment, the story goes, was left unfinished as the result of his failure to procure the prized pigment. Rafael reserved ultramarine for his…

Speaking of Pemmican

Originally posted on Midwest Maize:

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that the Native Americans who lived at the Mitchell site made pemmican as a trade good. If you wondered what pemmican tasted like, there are a lot of videos and books out there that will share with you how to make your own, authentic pemmican. Alternatively, you can save yourself the trouble and check out Tanka Bars—updated versions of the classic Native American energy food.

Tanka Bars are made by the Oglala Lakotas on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and they use real, grass-fed bison to make their updated version of this iconic food. I’ve had them—though I’ve only tried the original bar, not the newer versions—and they’re really delicious. Fun way to feel connected with history. Check them out.

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Books to Read

You still have a few more hours till the barbeque, the drinks and the family drama, but you can get your fix right here!

Finished Product

WEARY of RUNNNG reviews:

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” AMAZON.COM

“I have been waiting impatiently for this book to come out and I have to say it was worth the wait!
I Loved “House on Tenafly Road” and have been looking forward to this second one. I must say, it has not disappointed me.It has some of the characters from, house on tenafly road, but some very interesting new ones. My favorite is,Thankful, although at times I wanted to “shake” her.Unfortunately I finished it in a day and now will be waiting for the next one!Great work Adrienne Morris!” AMAZON.COM

The House on Tenafly Road ImageTHE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD reviews:

“This writer had me captivated and inspired from the very first page. The love story, hardships, and true depiction of life in the army base in Arizona all served to enlighten me about a time in history I never fully understood.” AMAZON.COM

“I started this novel and almost stopped. I thought the book a little strange. I kept reading to see what was going to happen and then I couldn’t put it down. It is a happy story….and then it is sad. At times you just want to shake the main characters, Katie and John. I won’t tell you why. Read this story yourself to find out! It is a wonderful book. When it ends, you wish it could go on.” AMAZON.COM

Journalists Lie?

Surely you can trust this face . . .
Surely you can trust this face . . .

Propaganda in the media is not a new thing. Bleeding Kansas. 1850’s. We like the word bleeding, don’t we? The unfolding drama of free settlers armed to the teeth by Eastern preachers versus tobacco chewing ruffians with the Slavocracy behind them. Good vs Evil on a bloody field. But not so quick.

People rushed to Kansas for the LAND. They may have taken their guns (and those of the preachers’) but hell, everyone took guns into the wilderness. And what about those ruffians? Maybe some did chew tobacco but is that a crime? Digging a little deeper one finds the occasional fanatic but common sense would have it that most people went about their business for personal gain.  In Kansas the real fight was over property claims and government jobs.

The Northern abolitionist papers knew this but they didn’t mind muddying the waters for their cause (since their cause was justified). What’s a little exaggeration and deceit?

Let’s take the “sack” of Lawrence, Kansas. Okay, it’s a little complicated here. This sacking was very minor as sacks go. The Southern ruffian side and the Free Soil side squabbled over capitols and such. They had mini-fights that went back and forth (still mostly about power and property with maybe a sheen of the slavery issue). So the ruffian side comes into town there’s a bit of property damage and very little injury to humans. Here’s the headline from The New York Tribune : “Startling News from Kansas–The War Actually Begun–Triumph of the Border Ruffians–Lawrence in Ruins–Several Persons Slaughtered–Freedom Bloodily Subdued.”*

A few days later all the New York papers made mention in small type somewhere that reports had been greatly exaggerated and “scarcely” anyone had been hurt. Imagine you’re reading the paper and imagining this:

Rape of the Sabine Women
Rape of the Sabine Women

And then there’s the story of John Brown. Before Harper’s Ferry there was Pottawatomie. Kind of rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? Can we all be honest here? The photographs of John Brown give some insight into his character (maybe a little unhinged?).

Doesn't he kind of look like a vampire?
Doesn’t he kind of look like a vampire?

John Brown is frustrated at the moderate Free Soil folks in Kansas. He joins up with one of the many local militia groups “The Pottawatomie Rifles” and heads to Lawrence only to hear that Lawrence has been “sacked.”

The following night he takes his sons and a few other men on a killing spree. Here we don’t have to imagine. There were witnesses who testified. The killers dragged prominent Pro-south men from their beds ( in front of their wives and children) and systematically sacked (or I should slaughtered) them. With sharpened broadswords they hacked their heads until their skulls split and John Brown shot one to make sure he was dead.Then for fun they stole some horses.

Okay, so after the first hacking I’m pretty sure this group of men were sickos. I can sort of understand a passion killing, but to hack  one  person then another and another before traveling to yet another man’s house for some more hacking is beyond the beyonds to me. Not so for the eastern newspapers. The abolitionists couldn’t have it. No sickos on our side, thank you very much. They whitewashed the whole deal. Eventually John Brown became a hero–even songs were written in his honor.

So I ask you is it okay to fudge the truth for a good cause?

*From  The Impending Crisis by David Potter

Religious significance has the whip hand on the road

Adrienne Morris:

Do you know why Americans drive on the right?

Originally posted on Actonbooks:

The Victorians — people of the age, not just those under the flag — were proudly aware that they did not know everything; though each and every day they grew to know more and more about the world. They knew how to put things together. They knew how to explore. They gloried in doing so.

This present day has no time for humility. Every blessed thing must have a trite explanation, if only to prove how superior are the know-it-all no-nothings — kids who left college unable to spell or subtract. There can never be too many ‘dark matter’ fumblings after explanation of the inexplicable for them.

Much history and most archaeology is Sherlock Holmes territory. In archaeology it’s about ‘this layer is on top of that layer, therefore…’, ‘marks in the ground here show this, whereas other marks show that…’ and so on. All fine deductive reasoning, a thought…

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The Dutch and King Philip’s War: Thwarting the Postal Service Since 1673

Originally posted on The History Bandits:

“A close correspondency,” and “A more speedy Intelligence and Dispatch of Affayres.” These phrases embodied the reasoning behind Royal Governor of New York Francis Lovelace’s establishment of a postal service in 1672 at the behest of King Charles II. The English colonies had sought the creation of an official postal system as early as 1638, which King Charles I denied.  Bostonians, realizing the importance of increased communication as their colony grew, established one anyways at their own expense. Less than half a century later, King Charles II would also realize the importance of increased inter-colonial communication amidst countries warring for New World land. His insight would lead to the Boston Post Road, a series of trodden paths connecting Boston to New York City.


The paths that comprised the Boston Post Road began as Native American trails. Each November Native Americans would “pave” the paths by a process the Dutch termed…

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Political Correctness: Ideas in Exile

A victim of political correctness . . . The Martyr of Solway by John Everett Millais
A victim of political correctness . . .
The Martyr of Solway by John Everett Millais

It’s tempting to tsk, tsk at little remembered holidays celebrated in America’s past like POPE’S DAY in Boston. Oh, how intolerant we say. Did they really set aside a day to burn effigies of the Pope? Not the Pope! We may applaud the current pope’s stance on global warming, no cooling, no warming. We may think it’s nice that he lives in modest housing. We may laugh dismissively at his seemingly hypocritical notion that gun manufacturers cannot be Christian (even as he asks why bombs weren’t used sooner on Germany in WWII). But it’s impossible to ignore that at times in history the pope and his minions have ruled with an iron fist. (To be fair here, I don’t believe only Catholic popes rule this way)

It’s hard for us Biblically, theologically and historically illiterate secularists to see what all the fuss was about. As Hillary Clinton might ask, “What difference does it make now?”

I’m not sure. I’m going stream of consciousness today.

But wait.

A sudden qualm.

A dread.

It comes over me as I formulate a post about Irish Catholic immigration in the mid 1850’s and the anti-slavery parties of New England. Will someone be offended that I made a Hillary joke about gun-running allegations? Will people hate me for insulting a woman? Will someone be offended if I say that New England Protestants feared the mass immigration of Catholics because in part their memory was long and they remembered when Protestants were burned for not following human authority?

Might someone dismiss me as a “climate denier” because I hold a healthy skepticism for  scientific and political authorities who have been wrong so many times over the course of history and have often been knowingly deceptive in order to profit on fear? I DON’T WANT TO BE CALLED NAMES. I WANT TO DISCUSS IDEAS. Is this a pipe dream?

HISTORY IS NOT BUNK. Does that statement offend you? I hope, dear reader, that it does not for if it does we are truly doomed in our hyper-sensitivity and ignorance.

Protestants in New England worried what a mass influx of hard-drinking, Pope-following poor people would do to their society because the Pope hadn’t always been this great guy and drinkers can sometimes be a bit of trouble (I know, not all Irish people drink–I’m part Irish). They worried too about crowded cities unprepared to deal with mass poverty and violence. THESE ARE NOT FOOLISH CONCERNS. Do any of us really know what it must have been like to live with the constant threat of disease and the endless amount of funerals for children under the age of five? Have any of you lived next to a rowdy bar? I have–it’s not fun. Don’t look down your noses at human concerns, please. We need compassion. Can we at least try to see that while their fears may have been overblown they were human concerns?

It is true that the media as always wanted to sell papers and novels. If anyone believes journalists and novelists don’t have agendas I respectfully tsk, tsk you. Just as novels and newspapers sold best when stories of slave-owners raping slaves appeared in them, stories about priests raping virginal nuns reaped a hefty profit. The media machine is only impartial in the sense that it finds whatever position best helps line it’s pockets. That position is usually one of fear and hate mongering. Now there are thoughtful papers that come and go from time to time but they don’t make money and no one reads them.

The shock to American society (especially in the North) was huge as the Irish poor fleeing an engineered famine (a great way to consolidate land for powerful elite) swarmed cities and joined the Democratic party (mainly because they saw in the Whig party a Puritan value system they didn’t like and because their friends led them).

So here’s the thing: At one time the pope and the monarchs the pope liked ruled Europe. If you did something as a monarch to piss off the pope he threatened excommunicating the whole country. To us moderns this seems silly. We’d just say F***-off and move on, but back then people–regular people–wanted their kids baptized by the church–THE CATHOLIC CHURCH because they were told their babies couldn’t be saved  any other way. We can tsk, tsk again at how dumb they were as future people will probably laugh at stories published in the 1970’s about oil being gone by the 1980’s.

Once the Bible became available to people some of them read it and some of them questioned the rules forced upon them by the authorities. Question the authorities? Question the thought police? They must have been mad! But no matter. They were dead soon enough. Dead or gone.

Gone sailing to the rocky shores of New England to live quiet, harsh and cold lives as outcasts and pilgrims who dared protest against thought police and the cruelty and injustice of what must follow.

Winslow Homer Nor'easter
Winslow Homer Nor’easter