Monday, September 26, 2016

Outtake #1: Salmagundi and Privateers

 Here's what was originally in A Buss from Lafayette, that was taken out to shorten the opening chapter. You might also notice that the story was originally told in the 3rd person. (I would love to hear readers' opinions as to whether these "outtakes" should have stayed in the story or not!  Please let me know at
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  “I think that Dickon’s mother—or Dickon—is confusing two different dishes, Joseph,” Priscilla said, addressing Joss by his formal name, as she usually did. “One is Salmagundi, made from cold vegetables and meats dressed with herbs, oil and vinegar. The other is Solomon Gundy, a kind of pickled fish paste from Jamaica.”
Clara listened intently. She might not be thrilled to have a former schoolteacher (or former aunt) as her stepmother, but Priscilla did have a lot of information stored under that white mobcap. And Clara liked learning new things. That was one reason she read every moment she could do so.
Joss didn’t seem quite as pleased to learn this new fact. “Pickled fish paste, ma’am? That sounds disgusting. Maybe I won’t run away and be a pirate after all.”
“Not many pirates around these days, son,” his father said with a chuckle. “Although I suppose you could run away to be a privateer, but that’s only if we go to war with somebody again, God forbid. This last fight with Britain when you were a young lad just about wiped out all the businesses in New England. Hardly any imports to sell, even in Towne’s or any of the other stores in the village. Some, like Mr. Ballard, were driven right out of business.”
“It’s lucky Mr. Ballard also had his own school to run, then,” said Priscilla.
“Not lucky for me,” Joss grumbled. He’d attended Mr. Ballard’s private school for a short time, until it was decided that Joss and Mr. Ballard did not see eye to eye. -A Buss from Lafayette © 2016 by Dorothea Jensen

Saturday, September 24, 2016

And Now for Something COMPLETELY Different: A New Way to Record History!

As some of you might know, I usually write posts about historical events, historical fiction, and the like about the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Today I am writing about an exciting new form of recording history in the 21st century to be done by Smock Media Holdings, a film production company based in Venice Beach, CA. This is a company created and run by my sons, Hawk and Nate Jensen.

Hawk is an experienced, award-winning documentary film-maker. He has come up with a groundbreaking idea for recording historical occurrences using VR360 (for an explanation, read the text below).

 To put this into practice, Hawk and his Managing Producer bro, Nate, need some help.

Please click on the following link to watch a video explaining what Hawk and Nate want to accomplish, and to connect to the crowdfunding campaign to make this happen.  
Support this 21st Century History Project!


Dorothea Jensen (Proud Mother)

P.S. Even  a dollar helps!

The award-winning documentary filmmakers at Smock Media in Venice Beach, CA are raising $57,500 for a virtual reality project called PRIME OBSERVER®.  Our goal is to build Camerasuits® for our team of zany photojournalist / documentarian / adventurers to capture full 360 degree footage of spectacular cultural and historical moments that place you INSIDE
these events as we experience them.
Ever wanted to go back to relive Burning Man or Coachella? Wanted to know what it's really like to be in the middle of a floor fight at a political convention? Wanted to stand between rival protest marches and form your own opinion of what happened? Wanted to surround yourself by all the glitz, glamour and glitterati at Fashion Week but couldn't get on the red carpet?  Prime Observers® Hawk, Ramblin' Tom, Kalia, Ben, Dakota, Nathaniel, Andylee and Abba Austin will put you there.     
Virtual reality is a whole new medium to record history.  With over 150 years of combined documentary production experience we know where to place the camera to capture "the moment" but now we ourselves will become that camera inside that moment.  Filmmaking will never be the same.  Come step into the scene with us!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Going to School, 1820s-30s Style

When we were visiting Monadnock History and Culture Center in Peterborough, NH, last weekend, we checked out the one-room schoolhouse, made of brick. Posed in front are re-enactors Lorraine Walker and Brigham Boice, in the roles of Mrs. Prescott and her son, Augustus Prescott.

Just for contrast, here's a one-room school house in Davisville, very close to Hopkinton, NH, where A Buss from Lafayette  is set. Note the separate entrances for boys and girls. By the way, my 8th grade teacher (the one who met Geronimo as a little girl) started her teaching career at one room school houses very much like this one.

Meanwhile, back at Peterborough, at the Monadnock Center for Culture and History, here are exterior bricks on the outside of the school.  Notice the grafitti, possibly carved by misbehaving students who were sent outside for punishment!

 Here is "Mrs. Prescott" showing us the interior of the school. She told us that the shorter benches in the front were for the youngest kids. Sher added that sometimes students who occupied the back row of benches went directly from there to being teachers, as no formal training was required.
 Here is "Augustus Prescott" modeling a dunce cap for us. This was one of the punishments common in 19th century schools. (At least the dunce cap didn't hurt as much physically as the reticule, featured in A Buss from Lafayette, that was used by teachers to hit unruly children on the hand.)

Here is "Augustus Prescott" showing us a slate board, used by pupils to write classroom exercises.

Here's what Clara says about slate tablets like this one:

"I liked everything about school, right down to the
sound of the pencils scritching on our slate tablets."
- A Buss from Lafayette © 2016 by Dorothea Jensen
 The re-enactors at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture said that in the winter, children would bring a potato from home to bake in the stove that heated the classroom. Each potato would be marked with the child's name.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

"New-Fangled" Forks

I was so upset about everyone forgetting my birthday that I had lost my appetite, but Joss dug right in to his supper. He located a piece of beef in the pile of salmagundi on his plate, speared it with the tip of his knife, and brought it to his mouth. This was his habitual way of eating, despite Prissy constantly urging him to use the new-fangled three-pronged forks she set on the table.  - A Buss from Lafayette ©2016 by Dorothea Jensen

"One of the last places the fork caught on in the Western world was colonial America. In fact, forks weren't even commonly used until the time of the Civil War; until then, people just at with knives and their fingers...And as late as 1864, one etiquette manual complained that 'many persons hold forks awkwardly, as if not accustomed to them.' ' - The Origin of the Fork, Uncle John's All-Purpose Extra Strength Bathroom Reader

I figured that Priscilla, living and teaching in Boston, would have adopted the fashion of forks earlier than folks in rural New Hampshire.

Here is a serving fork from Monadnock History and Culture Center in Peterborough, NH. The re-enactor there said that in the 1820s and 1830s, forks were used for serving but not for eating.

Instead, diners would put food on the flat blade of their knives and carry it to their mouths that way.

Here is a knife from that era, also at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Visiting 1830!

Today we spent a couple of hours visiting 1830 via the Monadnock History and Culture Center in Peterborough, New Hampshire. There we met re-enactors Lorraine Walker, John Patterson, and Brigham Boice, who portrayed Nancy, Samuel and Augustus Prescott. This was the family who, in the 1820s-30s, actually lived in the house that visited.

 The demonstration we watched was of hearth cooking, foraging and preserving food. Here is the garden planted and cared for by "Mr. Prescott". Much of the food prepared inside the house (on the right) comes from this garden.

You can see that "Mrs. Prescott" is wearing a mobcap, just like Clara's stepmother does in A Buss from Lafayette. She is also wearing a kind of pinafore over her dress to keep it clean while working in the kitchen.
Just as at Clara's house in my story, sugar comes in large, cone-shaped, rock hard loaves. One of such loaves can be seen (wrapped in blue paper) on the shelf over the fireplace.


Here is the fireplace, with the beehive oven on the left side, being readied for baking loaves of bread.

"Mr. and Mrs. Prescott" explained that no matter how careful the cook was in baking bread, there were always some ashes on the bottom. Apparently the richer people could afford to buy the non-ashy top part of the bread, leaving the lower, ashy bottom bits for poorer people.  This is the origin of the term "upper crust."

Of course, in A Buss from Lafayette, the Hargraves family has an "ultra modern" Rumford Range, such as the one shown below, and did very little cooking in the fireplace.

The Rumford Range is on the right under the window. It is a brick structure with holes with fitted pots, underneath which are levels for burning charcoal, and then cleaning out the ashes from the bottom level. The advantage was that cooks could stand up, not bend over, and smoke did not get in their eyes.

To Be Continued. . .

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Surprising Spanish Support for the American Revolution


When I visited Santa Barbara, California, last winter, I went to see the exhibits at the Santa Barbara Mission, one of those established by Spain on "El Camino Real" going up the California coast.

This is one of those exhibits.

Help Honor "America's Favorite Fighting Frenchman!"

OK, this is just an update on the post below.

$23,250 of the necessary $35,000 has now been received or pledged!  

 (Every dollar helps - please contribute and make a little history yourself.) 

In historic Yorktown, Virginia, site of the final major battle of the Revolution, there is a duet of statues honoring General George Washington, commander of the combined American and French forces, and French Admiral Fran├žois De Grasse, commander of the French fleet that "bottled up" the British troops under General Cornwallis at Yorktown. These life-sized figures were created by Virginia sculptor Cyd Player.

Installed in 2005 and enjoyed by tens of thousands of visitors annually, the statues commemorate two important meetings that took place on board De Grasse’s flagship the Ville de Paris to plan the 1781 Yorktown campaign and to explore plans for further operations.

The problem? It was supposed to be a quartet of sculptures. There are two important figures missing! Also present for at least one of these meetings were General Rochambeau, who led the French troops, and General Lafayette, who had kept Cornwallis trapped at Yorktown until the combined American and French troops had arrived. (He also served as an interpreter at the meeting with Washington, Rochambeau, and De Grasse.)

The reason that Lafayette and Rochambeau are not represented here? There was not enough funding to create all four statues at the same time.

Now the national organization dedicated to honoring the young Frenchman who did so much to help us gain our independence, the American Friends of Lafayette, is teaming up with the Celebrate Yorktown Committee of the Yorktown Foundation, and other interested organizations and people, in order to commission a statue of Lafayette. The new statue will accurately portray this important historical event and provide an opportunity for visitors of all ages to discover and recognize the role Lafayette played in shaping America’s history.

The goal is to get the statue finished in time to be dedicated on in October,  2017, at the annual celebration of the American victory at Yorktown.

To date, over $20,000 of the necessary $35,000 has been pledged.

Please consider contributing to this exciting endeavor and helping to construct history!

To help make the Lafayette Statue a reality, click here to donate via PayPal or mail a check (made out to American Friends of Lafayette) to:

American Friends of Lafayette
c/o Chuck Schwam
302 Hart Road
Gaithersburg, MD 20878

The AFL is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and contributions are eligible to be tax-deductible.

P.S.  Finally, you might want to become a member of the American Friends of Lafayette.
The cost to join is minimal, and it is great fun to get together every year to learn more about General Lafayette and other figures and events of the American Revolution. There is also a great publication, "The AFL Gazette", with information about Lafayette sent out to all members several times a year.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Love that Positive Feedback!

One tricky bit about being an author is that you are constantly in the cross hairs of readers/reviewers/critics who can easily broadcast negative reactions to your books far and wide. Ouch!

That is why it is especially gratifying when someone, especially someone who knows about books, writes something positive. Hooray!

In any event, here is something very gratifying that just came in. It is the Critic's Report for the Booklife Prize in Fiction for which I entered A Buss from Lafayette.  Whew!

* * *

Title: A Buss from Lafayette

Author: Dorothea Jensen

Genre: Fiction/General Fiction (including literary and historical)

Audience: Middle-Grade

Word Count: 46,911


Fifty years after American independence, General Lafayette is visiting all 24 of the new nation's states and everyone is eager to catch a glimpse of the honored guest, even 14-year old Clara Hargaves. Jensen effortlessly weaves history together with the daily trials of a girl resenting her stepmother’s reminders to behave like a lady. Most schoolchildren know Lafayette’s role in the Revolutionary War only superficially, and Jensen makes him come alive in a way they will remember. Historical accuracy, character development, and engaging dialogue enliven this narrative and make it an enjoyable read.


Plot/Idea: 8
Originality: 8
Prose: 9
Character/Execution: 9
Overall: 8.50