Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Unwrapping: Wacky Wednesday - Giving Thanks ...

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. For those of us in the USA anyway and as always it gives us pause to think of all the things for which we're thankful - good health, family, friends and all things good. As I contemplated the coming day, it gave me further pause to think of the things we might not have had we not had such a close relationship with Great Britain even after we did that whole Revolution thing and told England where to go!

No hard feelings, of course, so today we have a good relationship with our distant relatives 'across the pond' and think kindly on them as we do all relatives who live far away.

As I began baking and cooking ahead some of the items that will dress our Thanksgiving table, I thought about that first Thanksgiving. It wasn't at all what it is today, it's even been recently confirmed that the Pilgrims didn't even have turkey on their menu ... can you imagine?  No pumpkin pie, either?  Shocking!

This made me wonder about where some of our Thanksgiving and holiday staples came from including decorations as well as foods. I was surprised to learn that we can trace some of our traditional constants back to Great Britain even after we threw them out.

Take our beloved CHOCOLATE, for example. Yes, it was a New World discovery but it was a Brit by the name of John Cadbury who developed an emulsification process that solidified chocolate into bars for before him, chocolate was consumed mostly as a liquid sweetened with sugar and milk.  Imagine the holidays without chocolate - shoot, imagine any day without chocolate. Thank you, Mr. Cadbury, a Regency man.

How many of you like to indulge in Mincemeat Pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas?
Well, we're talking British origins there for sure.  Mincemeat pie was originally derived from eastern recipes based on meats, fruits and nuts brought back to Great Britain by the crusaders but eventually evolved into the spicy all fruit and nut pie of today.  Much better without the meat. 

What would Thanksgiving be without the potato?
Yes, the potato was yet another New World discovery that was slow to be accepted by most of Europe but it was the brave citizens of the British empire, in particular the Irish, who took this simple spud and discovered its great use as a staple and farm crop. They were the ones who invented new ways to use it, particularly mashed. The potato became such an essential staple to the islands of Great Britain that the population grew substantially during the early 1800's eventually culminating in the great emigration from Great Britain to America when disease struck the potato farms of Ireland in 1845.  Who would ever have thought that the potato would be so instrumental in the expansion of our country's population.

Do you like to decorate your Thanksgiving table with a lovely centerpiece?
One of the flowers that I most associate with Fall and Thanksgiving is the beautiful Chrysanthemum. 
Chrysanthemums, often called mums, are of the genus (Chrysanthemum) constituting approximately 30 species of perennial flowering plants in the family Asteraceae which is native to Asia and northeastern Europe - Surprised?
Can you guess how they came to be in the Western World and Europe?
British explorers and merchants began traveling to the Far East where Chrysanthemums had been cultivated and grown by the Chinese since the 15th Century but may have been brought to Japan as far back as the 8th Century. The Japanese revered it as a Happiness Flower even giving it its own festival. It has long been the centerpiece of Japanese art and culture. Discovered in Asia by British merchants in the late 17th Century, the beautiful flowers were brought back to England where the short growing season proved perfect for the hardy yet delicately beautiful flowers to grow and flourish. 

I love Chrysanthemums and love that their origins in the western world start in England with their popularity growing during the Regency era so I included them in my own Work in Progress. Since I usually share an excerpt with you on Wednesdays, I thought I'd share the scene with you, hope you enjoy it:

“Miss Embry, may I say how beautiful you look this evening?” the Earl of Parkhurst remarked with a smile as he awaited his bride at the bottom of the great staircase. As she reached the last steps, he offered his hand to her. Rose shifted her nosegay from her left to right hand before she placed her free hand in his.

“Thank you, Lord Hawkings. Please, do feel free to tell me how beautiful I look.” She teased humorously as she flashed him a brilliant smile. Was it possible his compliments were sincere?

The man smiled with amusement as he allowed his eyes to take in her overall beauty. As he perused the whole of her stunning image, his smiling green eyes came to rest on the pearl that rested just above the creamy hills of lush flesh. Warm luscious flesh that he hoped to sample very soon.

A sly smile playing on his lips, he reached out and gently lifted the pearl. As he cradled the pearl in his fingers, the back of his hand brushed his soon-to-be bride’s exposed bosom as it peeked above the lace of her bodice. Rose gasped when she felt the warmth of his hand brush against her bare skin. “I’m glad you accepted my gift and you honor me by wearing it.”

“It is far too extravagant, milord.” Rose exclaimed nervously as her eyes dipped to the pearl resting in his long fingers. She blushed as the back of his hand pressed slightly against her bosom. He removed his hand and let the pearl fall back against her skin. The pearl suddenly felt cold against her skin after the heat of his hand. Expecting him to lower his hand, the Earl surprised her by reaching into her nosegay and pulling loose one of the beautiful pale yellow chrysanthemums. As he lifted it from the collection, he slowly slid it along her breast to her collarbone and along her neck before raising it to her nose. She inhaled its wonderful spicy scent without hesitation.

She saw the Earl smile before he pulled the flower away and tucked it into her hair above her left ear. He leaned forward as he did and whispered near her ear. “Only someone as beautiful as you could ever do justice to nature’s own beauty.” He lingered a moment and she heard the intake of his breath as he drew in her scent. Rose felt the warmth of his breath on her neck as he slowly exhaled. His cheek briefly brushed against hers as he paused to take another inhalation. He liked that she smelled of gardenias. It was even more delightful than the fresh bloom he had just tucked into hair. Gardenias was a familiar scent from his youth in Louisiana. Perhaps, he would tell her that later when they were alone.

Rose was shivering with nervous energy as she contemplated what to do about halting the proceedings so when she felt his cheek brush against hers, she reacted more out of instinct than rejection by taking a quick step backward. This man’s touch, his scent, his flirtations had caused a flush of heat racing over her body. Had he been another man, perhaps she would not have minded but his similarity to Hawke was becoming unbearable. She wanted the man to be Hawke not his arrogant cousin who was now attempting to woo her only moments from their vows. She was tempted to run back up the stairs and escape. She stopped herself from fleeing but when she glanced up at his lordship’s face, she saw hurt and disappointment there. Wondering if she had truly offended him by her reaction, she opened her mouth to apologize but too late. Lord Hawkings stepped back, straightened his waistcoat and spoke before she had the chance.

“Think of the pearl as a small token of my appreciation or payment if you so choose. You shall surely earn it.” His tone was flat, dry and full of annoyance not to mention cruelty. Rose nearly gasped at his reference to payment. He saw the shock in her face and regretted it immediately. He had forgotten the role he was playing and had not considered that Rose would not expect such an intimacy from a man she had only met the day before. She had injured his pride with her physical rejection. Perhaps this was a mistake after all. Had he really thought she might have feelings for him? He didn’t care. They had an agreement and if she refused him later, he would simply leave. Perhaps he would anyway.

“Sir, I wish a private moment with you, if I may?” Rose demanded politely in a lowered voice.

“You may have it after the ceremony for it is time to begin.” The Earl of Parkhurst was no longer in the mood to play at courtship. The sooner this charade was over the sooner he could return to his own life. He turned and walked toward the doorway leading to the ballroom. He turned sightly to find his bride had not followed. Impatiently, he crooked his arm and waited.

Rose watched him, she knew he expected her to follow but she contemplated running away instead. Could she really proceed with this farce? He’d dismissed her needs as if she was a servant. Was that what she was to be in his household? Fine with her, she decided. He needed a wife so she would be one, in name only. If the despicable man wanted an heir, he would have to get one from one of his village whores.

She saw him crook his arm. He expected her to take her place at his side. She hesitated. Seeing his niece's hesitation, William stepped forward, took her arm and led her to the Earl. “You are a vision of beauty, my dear. It’s a shame your father isn’t here.”

“Thank you, Uncle William. I wish he was here, too.” To save me from this wretched marriage, her brain screamed even as Rose gave her uncle a weak smile as she allowed him to place her arm in her soon-to-be husband’s. Her knees shook and the temptation to flee struck her again but before she could act upon it, the tall man at her side moved forward and her turncoat feet followed.  ---

Thanksgiving fills us with so many thanks. So tomorrow when you're sitting down to indulge in turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and pie while enjoying the lovely chrysanthemum centerpiece surrounded by friends and family give thanks to the world for making it a lovely day. There's a little bit of world history on that table not just good ol' American ingenuity. Although, the turkey, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and bourbon are all ours.

Any Thanksgiving trivia you'd like to share or perhaps just a comment on the world or my story perhaps ... I'd be thankful to share it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends, family and the world.  Happy Reading as always.


Beebs said...

Hi Amy,

I enjoyed that excerpt, left me wanting more, which can only be a good thing.

No Thanksgiving here, we save our celebrating for Christmas.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Amy Valentini said...

Hi Beebs,
Really, you liked it!! Thanks, I needed to hear that. I hope you enjoyed how I closed the distance 'across the pond'!
As always, thanks for visiting and I really am glad you want more of my story ... that truly gives me encouragement. xoxo

Beebs said...

I really did like it Amy. A truly tempting teaser.

Hope it's published soon, I'll expect a heads up when it happens.

Amy Valentini said...

LOL!! Beebs, from your lips to a publisher's ear. I hope it happens and believe me if it does, it will be announced here first and you'll know about it. Thanks so much. xox

Rob Koontz said...

Amy- really good stuff...not my genre, of course, but you knew that- though it is top-drawer stuff anyway...WHEN it's published, I will make sure to buy a copy regardless, though I know some who would enjoy it-perhaps all the more so, because I know the author !

Amy Valentini said...

Awww, Robert, you came to my blog - that means a lot to me! Thank you and thanks for the kind words. I know you have a high standard regarding your reading tastes so for you to give me such a compliment and on a blog such as this, it means the world to me. Woohoo, such great feedback from me friends so far, perhaps I haven't been wasting my time. : )
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Robert. xoxo

Your Name said...

Awesome I can see a mini series on TV coming out of this one. Any plans for a second one once this is published?

Maureen said...

Absolutely loved the excerpt, I would really love to read all of what you have, hint! Sis and all! I am your biggest fan ya know. Is it done? By the way the rest of the blog, loved it as always! XXOO M

Bren said...

What a great opening and the cliffhanger was fantastic. I had so many questions running through my mind... "why is she marrying this guy? is he a creep or just confused? who is Hawke?" etc. etc. Getting your reader to ask questions is the best way to hook them in. I wish you luck in finishing your work in progress. Also, if you aren't already a member of Romance Writers of America, I suggest you try to find a chapter in your area. They are fantastic and have helped me so much in my own writing. Best wishes ! ~Brenna Aubrey

Amy Valentini said...

Hi Brenna, thank you so much for visiting my blog - what a treat! It was such a delight having you in the Ballroom. Thank you so very much for your feedback and I'm so happy it intrigued you. This excerpt actually comes from further into the story so most of those questions are already answered but obviously, I picked a good excerpt to tease. : )
As soon as I can afford the dues, I plan to join RWA - 2 great chapters surround me with some of the most lovely writers as members.
Thanks again and I hope you'll visit again. xoxo