1890s Fashions for Women (and an announcement)

1890s Fashions for Women (and an announcement)
Francois Courboin, In the Cabinet des Estampes (Bibliothèque Nationale), 1897. Image via wikimedia commons.

Francois Courboin, In the Cabinet des Estampes (Bibliothèque Nationale), 1897. Image via wikimedia commons.

In writing about the world of Concordia Wells, I have to make sure the lady professor and her colleagues are always suitably attired in the style of the day.

I use a variety of sources for descriptions and sketches of what these ladies wore during the Progressive Era. Two of my favorite books for research are the Sears, Roebuck & Co. Catalog of 1897 and Victorian Fashions & Costumes from Harper’s Bazar, 1867-1898.

1897 Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalogue

Other sources include newspaper advertisements from a search of Chronicling America (a digital archive of 19th century U.S. newspapers from the Library of Congress), and etiquette books of the period, such as Manners and Social Usages by Mrs. John Sherwood, an 1898 self-help book (yes, they had those way back then!), which I quote from extensively in book #5 (more about book #5 in a moment).

I also have to keep reminding myself not to overlook YouTube, which has a surprising collection of old film footage and picture montages. Below is one I think you’ll enjoy. If you want to skim (it’s a bit long), there’s a wedding dress at 5:12 and a series of bicycling outfits similar to what Concordia wears at 10:06.

 

Announcement:

Book 5 of the Concordia Wells Mysteries is complete and we have a cover! Official release day is Tuesday, November 1st. For those of you who have read the series from the beginning, book 5 comes full circle in several ways that I’m hoping you’ll find satisfying. Here’s a portion of the cover and the blurb:

 

belovedandunseemlyheader

 

A stolen blueprint, a dead body, and wedding bells….

Change is in the air at Hartford Women’s College in the fall of 1898. Renowned inventor Peter Sanbourne—working on Project Blue Arrow for the Navy—heads the school’s new engineering program, and literature professor Concordia Wells prepares to leave to marry David Bradley.

The new routine soon goes awry when a bludgeoned body—clutching a torn scrap of the only blueprint for Blue Arrow—is discovered on the property Concordia and David were planning to call home.

To unravel the mystery that stands between them and their new life together, Concordia must navigate deadly pranks, dark secrets, and long-simmering grudges that threaten to tear apart her beloved school and leave behind an unseemly trail of bodies.

 

I’m so excited and can’t wait for you all to read it! I’ll post the full cover reveal in my newsletter and here on the site when the links go live. I know you guys have been so patient(!) waiting for this next Concordia installment, and I really appreciate your loyalty.

If you don’t want to wait for November 1st, you can be one of my advance readers! I’m offering ten free advance review copies (ARCs) of the ebook version of  Beloved and Unseemly.

I love ARCs. Not only does the reader get a freebie ahead of time, but releasing the book “in the wild” may generate early reviews. Reviews then help prospective readers decide if this book is their cup of tea.

Please note: readers receiving ARCs are under no obligation whatsoever to rate the book or post a review. This is per Amazon reviewer policy and I agree wholeheartedly. If something is free, it should not have strings attached. (But if you do decide to rate/review the book, Concordia and I thank you very much!)

So, if you’d like an ARC, send me an email at: contact(at)kbowenmysteries(dot)com. Let me know what format you want: mobi (Kindle) or epub (Nook or iPad/iPhone). I will send them out to the first ten readers who ask. Thank you!

Until next time,

Kathy

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1890s Perceptions of Electricity (shared post)

1890s Perceptions of Electricity (shared post)

One of the joys of researching historical mysteries is discovering new-to-me historical blogs. Icing on the cake is when the blogger generously shares her talents. A special thanks to the author of this piece, Tine Hreno, for permitting me to re-post this fascinating article on 1890s’ perceptions of electricity. I know you’ll enjoy it. As you’ll see from the full article, not only was electricity a source of light and power, it was an opportunity for entrepreneurs to make some quick money on electric “health” products, such as the rheumatism ring below.

Image via Sears Roebuck Catalog, 1897.

Image via Sears Roebuck Catalog, 1897.

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Popular Perceptions of Electricity in the 1890s

by Tine Hreno

If you lived in a major city, like London, electricity had become part of your everyday life by the 1890s. You might not have it in your home, but even if you did, you might not understand what it was.

Even electrical engineers, like Nikola Tesla, used words like “energy” to describe that which was generated by electricity and that which he felt after sleeping. It’s not clear that many people distinguished between the two. Tesla actually got the idea for tuning radio frequencies through his belief that he and his mother were tuned into the same frequency when she died. Still, Tesla understood more about electricity than most people do today, but the electrical revolution was spreading rapidly.

A town called Godalming, Surrey, built the first central station to provide electricity to the public in the fall of 1881. They did so because the disagreed with the rate the gas company was charging them. I understand the feeling from dealing with my internet provider. Godalming’s system was first used for their street lamps, but within the year more than 80% of its homes were connected. Overall, the town wasn’t happy with their new electrical system and reverted to gas (also a familiar feeling in dealing with new internet providers). However, by 1882, London had a large-scale power station at Holburn Viaduct.

Read the rest here (and check out the cool lithographs and product advertisements): Writers in London in the 1890s: Popular Perceptions of Electricity in the 1890s

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Thanks so much for stopping by!

Psst…by my next post, I should have some book news.

Until next time,

Kathy

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August 30, National Toasted Marshmallow Day

August 30, National Toasted Marshmallow Day
Image courtesy of Nina Hale, creative commons license.

Image courtesy of Nina Hale, creative commons license.

Okay, so it’s a made-up holiday (sponsored by the National Confectioners Association), but what’s not to love about celebrating that iconic summer treat, toasted marshmallows? The history of the marshmallow is pretty cool, too.

Althaea officinalis, illustrated by Leonhard Fuchs. Citation link: http://catalogue.wellcomelibrary.org/record=b1000513

Althaea officinalis, illustrated by Leonhard Fuchs. Citation link: http://catalogue.wellcomelibrary.org/record=b1000513

Marshmallows were originally made from the root of the Marshmallow herb, also known as Althaea officinalis. The Egyptians made candy/cakes from it, mixing the sap with honey and grains. One source says the Egyptians reserved such a treat for the gods and that everyone else was forbidden to eat it, but I have not been able to confirm that with other sources.

The sap of the Marshmallow root was long known to soothe sore throats, and the Greeks and Romans used it medicinally as both a liquid and lozenge. It was the French who finally turned it into a candy in the early 19th century, whipping it to an airy consistency. However, extracting the necessary sap from the Marshmallow plant was time-consuming. Only small, local sweet shops prepared it, mixing small batches by hand.

Our commercially-produced marshmallows bear little resemblance to these earlier confections. Once it was discovered (late 19th century) that gelatin and egg whites could substitute for the consistency provided by the Marshmallow root sap, the marshmallow no longer had Marshmallow in it.

Nonetheless, many people enjoy our modern-day marshmallows, and it’s nice to see that vegan and kosher varieties are now more widely available. An occasional fluffernutter sandwich, rice krispy square, MallowCup, or smores beside a campfire can be a fun treat, right?

Speaking of treats, here’s a recipe for our family’s favorite marshmallow dessert, cookie pizza. Enjoy!

Cookie Pizza

Ingredients:

  • Your favorite sugar cookie dough (we use Betty Crocker’s Sugar Cookie Mix, but you can use the already-prepared 18oz pkg of refrigerated dough)
  • 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups M&Ms
  • 2 cups mini-marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup peanuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 deg F, or per sugar cookie baking instructions.  Divide dough, and press into 2 ungreased pie pans.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden.  Cool.

 

2. In either a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave, melt chips and sweetened condensed milk until smooth and blended.  Spread over crusts.  Sprinkle with remaining ingredients.

Bake 4 minutes, or until marshmallows are lightly toasted.  Cool and cut into wedges.

 

Want to read more about marshmallows?

NATIONAL TOASTED MARSHMALLOW DAY – August 30 | National Day Calendar

Wikipedia: Marshmallow (includes a video link as to how marshmallow was made from the root)

The History of Marshmallows

Boyer Candies (makers of MalloCups)

 

Do you enjoy toasting marshmallows, or using them in a recipe? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

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It almost didn’t happen: the 1896 Summer Olympics

It almost didn’t happen: the 1896 Summer Olympics

olympic rings

Olympic fever is going strong right now, with the Summer Games in full swing in Rio. There’s something wonderfully ironic about lounging on a sofa, chowing down on Cheetos, and staying up past one’s bedtime (making the next-day’s early-morning walk unlikely) in order to watch dedicated athletes strain every muscle and sinew to earn the designation of Olympic champion. But hey, there’s no judging here. Pass me the Fritos. *wink*

Most of us learned in school that the Olympic Games go way back to the 8th century B.C. Of course, it hasn’t been going on continuously since then. There was a lengthy dormant period after the Romans invaded Greece, which pretty much lasted until the Greek war of independence from the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century. The Olympic Games were revived in fits and starts during the 19th century, but really didn’t have any momentum until 1894, when the first International Olympic Committee (IOC) was formed, sports societies in eleven countries were courted, and the host city of Athens was selected for the 1896 Summer Games. The Greeks in particular were delighted, and the Greek royal family gave their blessing.

Except…it almost didn’t happen.

Greece during this time was suffering from financial and political instability. The position of prime minister alternated frequently between two men during the last decade of the century, and the IOC was so over budget that the committee predicted the cost of hosting the Games would be triple the original estimate and therefore impossible to raise. Members resigned.

Commemorative stamp of Greece, 1896. Wikimedia Commons.

Commemorative stamp of Greece, 1896. Wikimedia Commons.

Enter Crown Prince Constantine, who assumed the presidency of the IOC and put out an appeal to the Greek public for money. Between royal donations, public contributions, the sale of commemorative postage stamps, and ticket sales, they were able to come up with the needed funds.

There were still penny-pinching measures, of course. The swimming events had to be held in the cold Bay of Zea because Greece couldn’t afford to build a stadium swimming pool. The sailing races were canceled because not all of the boats had proper embarkation points available. There was no Olympic Village for athletes (the first one was 1932). Competitors had to find their own lodging.

Other interesting bits of info about the 1896 Summer Games:

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

  • Female athletes were excluded from the 1896 Summer Games (they began competing in the 1900 Paris games). One of the organizers of the 1896 Games said that the inclusion of women competitors would be “impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic and incorrect.” In spite of the ban, Greek runner Stamata Revithi ran the marathon course the day after the men’s race. Officials wouldn’t allow her to finish inside the stadium, nor did they otherwise recognize her achievement in any way (she had collected signed affadavits as to her start and finish times). You can read more about her here. As a side note, the United States has this year brought the largest contingent of female athletes (292) to Rio, and the women outnumber the men (263).
  • We are accustomed to gold, silver, and bronze medals for first, second, and third place. At the 1896 Games, first-place finishers were awarded a silver medal, olive branch, and a diploma, while second-place received a copper medal, laurel branch, and a diploma. Nothing for third place.
  • Athletes weren’t officially sponsored by their nation of origin back then. Historical accounts conflict as to the exact number of countries represented. The estimate is 11-14 countries.
  • 241 athletes competed. Amateur status was required.
  • There were 43 events, spanning 9 sports.

 

The Sun, 18 April 1896. Via Chronicling America.

The Sun, 18 April 1896. Via Chronicling America.

Are you following the 2016 Olympic Games on television? Do you have a favorite sport? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

 

 

 

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You can’t fix stupid, 19th century style

You can’t fix stupid, 19th century style
I need this mug. Image via Amazon.

I need this mug. Image via Amazon.

As my regular readers know, I run across some strange, funny stuff in the course of my research. Most of the time it has nothing to do with what I’m actually looking for. *sigh* On the bright side, that means I can tuck it away to share with you guys!

In an age where nearly everyone’s pocket holds a camera and information can be shared instantly across the globe, we are confronted with a daily barrage of stupidity (especially in an election year, but let’s not go there). It’s easy at times to believe that we (collectively speaking) are just about as stupid as is possible without killing ourselves.

 

Double_Facepalm_Meme

 

Ah, not so fast. The 1890s had its share of boneheads, too. Check out the story of this doctor, as recounted in The Iola Register (Dec 24, 1897). The text can be a bit tough to read, so I highlighted some of the interesting bits:

 

1897stupid doctor composite3

Read the full article here, via Chronicling America’s archive.

 

Wow. Sounds like the opening scene of a low-budget sci-fi movie, or the origin story for a Spiderman super-villain. What if Dr. Connors had injected himself with cocaine instead of reptile DNA? Feel free to let loose in the comments. Maybe Stan Lee is looking for alternate timelines.

lizard

I also wonder…did Dr. Glynn’s patient list decline after the incident? (The bright side: more free time to poison himself). Did he ever write that treatise on poisoning, or did a subsequent “experiment” do him in? I guess we’ll never know.

So, what do you think? Have we grown more collectively idiotic, have we improved, or are we about equal with the past? What’s the funniest (non-lethal…hey, it’s almost the weekend, we want to kick back) story of stupidity you’ve run across lately? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

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19th century spiritualism: Gotcha!

19th century spiritualism: Gotcha!

Hi everyone!

As I finish up a short story (set in 1911) that features a spirit medium as the protagonist, I thought you might get a kick out of this post from five years ago.

Hope you are enjoying your summer!

~Kathy

 

Houdini matinee playbill, 1909. Image via wikimedia commons.

 

Today we’re wrapping up the spiritualism series with some of those “gotcha” moments, sometimes funny, sometimes pathetic, when frauds were exposed in public.

 

“GOTCHA” METHOD 1: Professional De-bunkers

Almost as plentiful as fraudulent mediums were the debunkers who sought to catch them at it.  Pictured below were some of the most well-known of their time:  researchers Harry Price (National Laboratory of Psychical Research, University of London) and Frank Podmore (Society for Psychical Research, London), and professional magicians John Nevil Maskelyne and Harry Houdini.  Podmore’s and Maskelyne’s activities were part of the Victorian Period proper; Price and Houdini built upon such efforts, exposing frauds in the 1920s and ’30s.

 

Image via Gutenberg.org

Frank Podmore, 1856-1910
Harry Price. Photograph by William Hope, 1922. Wikimedia Commons.

Harry Price, 1881-1948. Photograph by William Hope, 1922. Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

John Nevil Maskelyne

John Nevil Maskelyne, Carte de Visite Woodburytype - Print, wikimedia commons.

John Nevil Maskelyne, 1839-1917. Carte de Visite Woodburytype – Print, wikimedia commons.

After watching the Davenport brothers exhibit their “spirit cabinet,” purported to manifest spirits while the brothers were tied up inside, Maskelyne suspected fraud.  With the help of George Alfred Cooke, he built his own cabinet and in 1865 launched a career of stage magic that lasted decades, whereby he demonstrated how to artificially create many of the spiritualists’ effects.
 Harry Houdini, 1874-1926
The Library of Congress, McManus-Young Collection, http://www.loc.gov/rr/rarebook/coll/154.html

The Library of Congress, McManus-Young Collection, 1898. http://www.loc.gov/rr/rarebook/coll/154.html

 

Harry Houdini was the ultimate showman.  We associate him primarily with escape artistry, but many of his shows (see playbill, above) were based on re-creating spiritualists’ effects and exposing fraud.

 

 

Slade vs. Lankester

Dr. Henry Slade

Dr. Henry Slade (1835-1905) was an American medium who specialized in spirit writing on slate blackboards.  During Slade’s tour in Britain,

Prof. Ray Lankester

Professor Ray Lankester (Professor of Zoology,1847-1929) set out to expose him.  During Slade’s seances, he and another witness watched carefully. At the second séance, Lankester snatched the supposedly blank “spirit slate” to find that it had been pre-written.  Lankester published an account of the incident in a letter to the Times, and sued him. Slade was convicted and sentenced to three months of hard labor (in England, they typically used an old statute of vagrancy – originially meant for gypsies). However, upon appeal the sentence was dismissed, whereupon Slade fled England.

Read the NY Times account

Francis Ward Monck:

During a seance in Huddersfield, England, Monck, a Baptist minister-turned-medium, was accused of fraud.  As several men attempted to search him, he escaped through a window.  Several props, such as “spirit hands,” were found among his possessions, and he was eventually caught, arrested, and tried for fraud.  Like Slade, he was found guilty and received a three-month prison sentence.  Back in New York, he opened a healing clinic and was sued numerous times over the years.

Source: Monck v Hilton, Law Reports [Divisional Court] Feb. 6 1877


“GOTCHA” METHOD 2:  Rival Mediums
Cook vs. Guppy



Florence Cook (1856-1904) began her career as a medium at 15 (seems to be a trend, doesn’t it?), when she apparently levitated off the floor while with a group of friends.  Soon after, she was causing the ghost of Katie King to materialize.  Katie King was rather notorious in spiritualist circles, as she was supposed to be a murderess who, to atone for her sins in the afterlife, returned to convince people that the spirit world was real.  (I think Jacob Marley had better justification for returning to save Ebenezer Scrooge, but that’s just one opinion).  Being able to produce Katie King on demand became a profitable venture for Florence Cook.

However, success is not without its drawbacks.  Rival medium Mrs. Samuel Guppy (1838-1917), an older and, by some accounts, a less attractive woman (sorry, couldn’t find a picture to bear this out), decided to give her rival a come-uppance.  Of course, Mrs. Guppy couldn’t attend a seance of Cook’s – she was too well-known – so she enlisted the aid of William Volckman (who later became her husband).  Here’s the account as described by Emma-Louise Rhodes:

Volkman bribed himself into the séance by presenting jewelery to Cook and, once the spirit appeared, proceeded to seize her and then hold the ‘spirit’ and declare that she was, in fact, none other than Cook dressed up. Edward Elgie Corner, Cook’s fiancé, assisted by other sitters, swiftly intervened and Katie King escaped back into the cabinet, leaving Volkman with a bloodied and scratched nose. On entering the cabinet (after an unknown elapse of time) Volkman found Cook tied as she had been at the start of the séance, but with her clothes in disarray.”

Florence Cook sort of got away with it that time, but was caught dead to rights (sorry, bad pun) several years later.  She had abandoned the “Katie King” spirit in favor of “Marie,” a girl of twelve.  During one seance, one of the attendees, Sir George Sitwell, noticed a corset underneath the spirit’s dress – something a girl of twelve would certainly not be wearing.  He decided next time to grab the spirit.  When he did, and the curtains of the spirit cabinet (where Cook was supposedly tied up) were parted, Cook was gone, with only boots and other garments left behind.  The lights were turned on the reveal the “spirit” as Florence Cook, in her undergarments.

 

“GOTCHA” METHOD 3:  Stupidity
This is one of my personal favorites.  The following article was printed in The New York Times August 5, 1897.  Note that “See Quoyah” is Sequoyah, the Cherokee leader.

 

So, what do you think? Such frauds seem primitive to us, but can we still be fooled by more sophisticated charlatans? I’d love to hear from you.

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After the good-bye

After the good-bye

 

Hi everyone,

I have missed you! If I had known my cicada post was going to stay up as my most recent offering for the past six weeks, I might have picked something else….

dad29The reason for my silence is a sad one. My dad passed away three weeks ago. The deterioration of his condition over these last few months tugged at our hearts and our conflicting responsibilities, with road trips, time away from work, and the long-distance parenting of teens on the one hand, and hospital visits, medical decisions, and assuming our best game face for my dad (and my mom) on the other. And then there came the time when there were no more options, no more decisions to be made…and we had to face the reality of saying goodbye to this wonderful man. Many of you have lived this, and I have a renewed appreciation for what you’ve undergone.

I had considered just quietly resuming my blog without mentioning it. After all, I prefer to keep the tone of my posts light-hearted, especially in a world that can sometimes be rather grim. I also didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Death and grieving are difficult social topics, to say the least. We all want to console, to offer sympathy, but we worry that what we say will seem like empty platitudes. We feel helpless, not quite knowing what to say or do.

Rest assured, sympathy in any form is never meaningless. It is a kindness that can soothe. I have been very grateful for it.

I finally opted for saying something because I also value authenticity. I could not imagine resuming my writing and blogging without a public acknowledgment of my loss. My dad was my first crush. He loved me unconditionally. He made me feel I could accomplish anything. Missing him is as natural as breathing.

Dad Pat Corey summer

Steve Belin was a wonderful Pop, too! Pictured here with his oldest and youngest grandsons.

I know I will continue to grieve – some days will be more difficult than others – but I feel ready to get back to my routine. Focusing on the positive helps. I am blessed to have terrific memories to look back upon.

Here’s a special memory I want to share with you! It includes a recipe, just in time for Father’s Day and the backyard grilling season. It was originally written three years ago as a Father’s Day column for SocialIn Arlington. Enjoy!

Dad’s Secret to Great BBQ Chicken

We all know that Father’s Day gives us a chance to recognize the special dads in our lives.  Perhaps, when we think of our fathers, we recall the games of catch, or the family road trips, or our favorite televised sporting events, or maybe those long workdays that dad had to put in – a sacrifice that, as adults, we now truly recognize.

While I have a lot of those kinds of memories, I always think of my dad as…the Griller.  The man could make anything edible taste amazing when cooked over open flame.  During the summer months, I thrived on steak, chicken, kabobs, pasta salad, and burnt marshmallows.  As his only child, I learned all his tips and tricks – whether charcoal or gas, lighter fluid or a flick of the switch, it didn’t matter.  He was the Grill Master, and I was his young Padawan.  I learned The Way of the Tongs.

So in honor of Father’s Day, I’d like to share a family favorite that I turn to again and again: my dad’s trick for cooking juicy, skinless, fall-from-the-bone barbecue chicken.

Ingredients:

6 chicken leg quarters (thigh and drumstick still attached).  If you opt for chicken breasts, reduce cooking time by 10 minutes so they don’t dry out. But check for doneness. Always.

16 ounces of your favorite barbecue sauce (the thicker, the better)

Heavy duty aluminum foil

Directions:

Carefully strip the skin from the raw chicken , washing BOTH the skin and the chicken and blotting everything dry.  Do NOT discard the skin.

(NOTE: Since the original post, the USDA now recommends that raw chicken NOT be washed, because of risk of cross-contamination. Read more about it here: Washing Food: Does it promote food safety?)

Place the chicken quarters side-by-side on a generous square of heavy-duty foil, meaty sides up.  If you think all six legs would make the packet too cumbersome – you’ll be flipping it on the grill – you can divide the legs between two packets, rather than having them all in one.

Place the skins loosely BACK ON TOP of the chicken legs, covering the meaty parts in particular.  This will keep the chicken extra-moist, and will be ridiculously easy to take off before the sauce goes on.

Crimp the foil firmly around the edges to form a packet to seal in most of the juices. Some will escape during grilling, but don’t worry about that.  You want a little room inside there – don’t wrap them tightly in the foil, as you would a potato.

Grill the packet(s) over a hot fire. For charcoal briquettes, that means they are all gray, and you can barely tolerate holding a hand over the coals. For a gas grill, set it to medium-high heat. Grill for 40 minutes, flipping the packet once after the first 20 minutes.

Take the packet(s) off the grill and cut open the foil (use oven mitts when handling  – it’s going to be hot and rather messy).  The skin will slide right off. Discard skin and foil.

Pour barbecue sauce into a shallow pan.  Using tongs, DREDGE the chicken in the sauce, coating both sides.   (We don’t mess around with brushes at our house.  It’s all we can do not to lick our fingers).  It’s a little tricky, because the chicken will want to come off the bone at this point.  Show ‘em who’s boss.

Return the coated chicken to the grill, cooking for barely 2 minutes on each side, until the sauce is set.

Do you have a favorite recipe that reminds you of someone you care about? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

 

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See you in…17 years?

See you in…17 years?

 

Here at K.B. Owen Mysteries, we typically talk about historical culture and the mystery genre, though I do get off-topic from time to time, as life and interesting tidbits of pop culture creep in. Even so, I hardly ever blog about bugs.

My post about pollinators comes close: http://kbowenmysteries.com/posts/its-national-pollinator-week/

But there’s a first for everything, and the 17-year cicada is sort of historical, if you think about it.

Cicada molting. Image from USDA.gov

Cicada molting. I know…eww. Image from USDA.gov

According to the news reports, the “periodical” cicadas will emerge from the ground this spring. Everything about the bug demands notice, from its appearance – buggy red eyes and big, bulgy, two-inch-long winged body – to the loud, collective buzzing of the swarm. The first time I heard them, I thought an alien spaceship had landed. The sound is actually a chorus of males trying to attract females. Sort of the insect version of cat-calling.

Hey, baby, I see you over there on that hydrangea. You are looking mighty FINE today. Why don’t you fly on over here and we’ll have a good time.

Then there is the sheer number of them. Billions, covering areas across Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. Fortunately, they don’t bite/sting people or destroy crops. (Though dogs can get sick tummies when they snack on too many of them).

But the part of this that really intrigues me is the length of their life cycle. 17 years? Wow. The parents of this emerging brood of cicadas (Brood V) mated in 1999. Their offspring have been underground all this time, living off of root sap. When the top 8″ of soil warms to 64 degrees, they synchronously emerge to shed their nymph shells then swarm and mate.

hourglass

17 years is a long time. Do you remember 1999? A lot has happened since then. Here are some things that occurred to me. Back in 1999:

  • This blog didn’t exist (nor did its host, WordPress).
  • My first two sons were 6 and 3 years old, and the youngest hadn’t been born yet.
  • No Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or any sort of online social media existed; online interactions were facilitated through CompuServe and AOL, and primarily in email form. Not even the now-defunct MySpace was around yet (officially launched in 2003), nor was Friendster (2002).
  • Everyone was worried about Y2K.
  • We partied like it was “1999.”
  • Amazon was primarily an online book supplier and was just starting to expand into other merchandise.
  • There were no e-readers or e-books; the Kindle was first offered for sale in 2007.
  • There were no USB flashdrives (commercially available in 2000).
  • PayPal was just getting started (1998).
  • Google had just been founded (1998).
  • The online music-sharing site Napster was launched.
  • The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and impeachment proceedings were top stories in American newspapers.
  • The Twin Towers were still standing.

This generation of Brood V cicadas will be waking up to a different world. Many more items could be included in this list – feel free to add them in the comments! I would also love to hear about your experiences with the critters.

owl readingWant to read more about the 17-year cicadas?

Cicada Mania

Periodical Cicadas (wikipedia)

Billions of cicadas will descend upon the northeastern United States (Washington Post)

Cicadas Prepare to Emerge (CNN)

 

Until next time…keep your car windows rolled up! *wink*

~Kathy

 

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