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Thirteen Useless Facts about Romans

Thursday Thirteen

During my latest library jaunt I picked up a copy of The Mammoth Book of Useless Information by Noel Botham. Some of the useless information relates to Romans, and since hubby and I are off to Europe later this year, I thought this would make a good TT topic.

Thirteen Useless Facts about Romans

1. Romans used to believe that walnuts could cure head ailments, since their shape was similar to that of a brain.

2. In Ancient Rome, the law stated that prostitutes were to either dye their hair blonde or wear a blonde wig to separate themselves from the respectable brunette female citizens of Rome.

3. Wealth Romans, both men and women, would have all their body hair plucked, including pubic hair.

4. Slaves generally came from conquered peoples, but even a free man unable to pay back his debts could be sold into slavery.

5. One Roman ‘cure’ for stomach ache was to wash your feet and then drink the water.

6. The Romans were the first to create sculptures that actually resembled the people they were supposed to portray.

7. In ancient Rome, it was considered a sign of leadership to be born with a crooked nose.

8. The ancient city of Rome was on the site of the present city of Rome.

9. They invented numerals that are still used today.

10. Capital punishment was often carried out in the amphitheatre as part of the morning entertainment. Condemned criminals faced wild animals without the benefit of weapons and armor, or had to fight other prisoners to death with swords (also without armor)

11. Rome’s Circus Maximus was the biggest stadium, with seating for 250,000, and was used mainly for chariot racing.

12. Some Roman dishes were very exotic and included teats from a sow’s udder, or lamb’s womb stuffed with sausage meet.

13. Asparagus was a prized delicacy in ancient Rome and was rushed by chariot to the Alps, where it was deep frozen for six months to last until the Feast of Epicurius – God of Edible Delicacies.

Do you think you’d like to live in Ancient Rome?

Stink to High Heaven: Baths and Bathing

Thursday Thirteen

One of my recent library reads has been If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley. An excellent read BTW, and full of interesting social details about beds, underwear, child birth, marriage etc. If you’re writing historical romance or you’re interested in all things historical this is the book for you.

Thirteen Factoids about Baths & Bathing Through the Ages

1. Medieval people mostly washed their hands and faces rather than taking baths.

2. That said, Medieval people weren’t afraid of baths. Knights used to indulge in something called a Knightly bath, which involved decorative sheets, flowers and herbs placed around the bath. A servant would take a basin of hot herbal potion and use a sponge to scrub the knight’s body. The knight was then rinsed with rose water and rubbed dry with a clean cloth. He was then dressed in socks, slippers and a nightgown and sent to bed. Doesn’t that sound luxurious?

3. Baths were made of wood and lined with a linen sheet to prevent splinters in the bottom!

4. The English embraced the idea of the Turkish hammans after reports from returning Crusaders. Records show the presence of 18 bathhouses in London in 1162. They were known as stews and were communal with men and women sharing them. Most were in Southwark. Wow, imagine the potential for an erotic romance…

5. The communal aspect did cause problems and some became houses of ill-repute. Henry VIII closed the bath houses down in 1546.

6. From around 1550 to 1750 baths were considered dangerous and weird. Bathing became medicinal rather than cleansing. People feared that bathing spread disease such as syphilis. Hot water opened the pores, allowing illness into the body.

7. During the 17th century medical understanding improved. People started to understand perspiration and a bath in cold water was considered beneficial. A full bathing, despite recommendation by doctors, was slow to catch on. The ballrooms at this time were pretty stinky.

8. Beau Brummell and other gentlemen of his ilk popularized bathing, making it classy, and soon everyone was doing it. Victorian etiquette books started to state bathing was good manners.

9. Water was usually carried from the basement up to the bedroom, then once used, it was carried down again by servants. Hard work!

10. Around 1860 some houses started to receive piped water to first-floor bathrooms, which made bathing much easier for all concerned.

11. The en suite bathroom was first seen in the New World. American heiresses sent to secure an English nobleman as a husband were horrified by the primitive bathing conditions.

12. The Methodist minister John Wesley would not preach in a place without a toilet and thus came the idea of cleanliness becoming next to godliness.

13. By the end of the 20th century thinking in the bath/reading in the bath becomes a way of relaxing and relieving stress.

Personally, I’m a shower girl and seldom have a bath. The bath doesn’t get much use in our house. I’d love to own one of those sleek wetrooms with tiles and lots of shower heads. Maybe one day…

Bath or shower? What does your dream bathroom look like?

Thirteen Factoids About Eighteenth Century Food

Thursday Thirteen

I picked up a copy of A History of English Food by Clarissa Dickson Wright from the library last week. The history of food fascinates me, and I enjoyed the way this author told an interesting story instead of throwing facts at me.

Here are thirteen things I found interesting:

1. The Georgians had a huge impact on food, the way it was cooked, served and consumed. They even influenced the times of dining.

2. Advances in the fireplace and accessories made cooking less laborious. Roasting and baking became much easier due to new designs of ovens and flues.

3. Some of the poorer families didn’t own ovens and sent their pies, stamped with their initials, to their local baker.

4. The English started making porcelain from which to drink tea.

5. Tea became a very common drink for all classes. Tea was drunk weak and sweetened without milk. It’s assumed that they drank their tea black because the milk was often sour, had nasty additives or was thinned down.

6. The introduction of more lighting was one of the reasons meals became later and taken at times more familiar to us in 2011. In Medieval times people would go to bed when it became dark, but now people stayed up much later.

7. Seating was done according to station, although gradually this changed to alternative seating with men and women. They say behavior improved on the introduction of this new seating method. The women obviously kept the men in line!

8. Turtle soup wasn’t actually a soup but more a stew. It contained chunky bits of turtle. Turtle soup was so popular that people who couldn’t afford turtles made mock turtle soup out of calves’ heads. Personally, I say yuck!

9. It was deemed vulgar to sniff the meat on your fork or plate because the activity implies the meat was tainted. People didn’t take their own cutlery with them any longer. Instead the host provided it.

10. The ice house was another new innovation. A small stone outbuilding containing a deep pit for ice helped keep food fresh. Blocks of ice were sawn from rivers to provide the necessary ice.

11. In 1762 John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich sent for two slices of bread and some meat, inventing the sandwich. Job well done since I like sandwiches for lunch.

12. Viscount Townshend, known as Turnip Townshend, introduced a system of four-field crop rotation. This involved a strict order of plantings and improved the fertility of soil and crop production.

13. The staples of the English diet – meat, bread, and vegetables were readily available and affordable during the first half of the century. Toward the end of the century with the industrial revolution taking hold and growing populations, the laboring classes started to suffer.

It’s interesting to note that around this time England started sending convicts to Australia. One of my ancestors was sentenced for receiving stolen goods in 1801 and sent to Australia. His wife and two children went with him.

Thirteen Quotes About Age

Thursday Thirteen

Many years ago, around 8.00pm, I’m told, I came into the world kicking and screaming. Yes, today is my birthday, so I thought age was a very appropriate topic for my Thursday Thirteen today.

Thirteen Age Quotes

1. I was surprised when I started getting old. I always thought it was one of those things that would happen to someone else. ~ George Carlin, Brain Dropping 1997

2. I am in the prime of senility. ~ Benjamin Franklin

3. You’re not old until it takes you longer to rest up than it does to get tired. ~ Phog Allen, Kansas basketball coach

4. He says he’s young at heart – but slightly older in other places. ~ Anon.

5. Old is always fifteen years from now. ~ Bill Cosby

6. One day you look in the mirror and you realize that the face you are shaving is your father’s. ~ Robert Harris, Sunday Times 1996

7. One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age. A woman who would tell one that, would tell one anything. ~ Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance, 1893

8. The four stages of man are infancy, childhood, adolescence and obsolescence. ~ Art Linkletter, A Child’s Garden of Misinformation, 1965

9. First thing I do when I wake up in the morning is breathe on the mirror and hope it fogs. ~ Earl Wynn, Hall of Fame pitcher

10. The old believe everything: the middle-aged suspect everything: the young know everything. ~ Oscar Wilde, Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young, 1894

11. As we grow older, our bodies get shorter and our anecdotes longer. ~ Robert Quillen, American author

12. Just when I finally got my head together, my body fell apart. ~ Anon

13. Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. ~ Anon

I admit that sometimes I wish I were in my twenties again. I’d do a few things differently i.e. start writing much earlier than I did, but on the whole getting older isn’t too bad. The wrinkles can be a little scary, but it’s easy enough to avoid mirrors :-)

Does getting older worry you? Which of the above quotes is your favorite?

Thirteen Tricksters & Meanies from the World of Mythology

Thursday Thirteen

Many romances, especially paranormal and urban fantasy ones, are based on the world of mythology. An example is Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Hunter series. Old myths and legends are rich in ideas for authors, so I thought I’d mention a few characters from within mythology for my Thursday Thirteen today.

Thirteen Tricksters & Means from Mythology

To start, mythology is a collection of stories that helped people make sense of the world. They were passed orally from generation to generation. Sometimes people wrote the myths down, and they were often celebrated in dance and art.

1. Chimera – a fire breathing monster made up of a mishmash of body parts of different animals.

2. Bacchus – the Roman god of wine and ecstasy. He gave King Midas the power to change everything he touched into gold.

3. Maui – he’s one of our New Zealand tricksters, and was supposedly responsible for fishing up New Zealand. He was a slippery one, and frankly, I’d run if I saw him. He pushed up the heavens and stole fire for mankind.

4. Cunning Hare – he’s an animal trickster that always outwits the other animals. He’s known in the US as Brer Rabbit.

5. Loki – the Norse trickster god. He caused the death of Odin’s son, Balder and is still being punished for it.

6. Baba Yaga – is a cannibal witch from Russia. She lives in a revolving hut that’s supported by hen’s feet, and she flies through the air in a mortar (grinding pot)

7. Guan Di – the Chinese god of war. Originally, he sold tofu, but he killed a magistrate and had to flee his home. He became a soldier and was promoted to the status of god of war.

8. Eshu – the trickster god of the Yoruba people in west Africa. He likes playing tricks on people – mischievous ones. He disguises himself as a naughty boy, a wise old man and a priest.

9. Kokopelli – another trickster. He’s also responsible for fertility of crops and the village women. I used Kokopelli as the basis for my story Seeking Kokopelli.

10. Tengu – a part man and part bird. They’re Japanese and have magic invisibility cloaks.

11. Sekhmet – a lioness god, sent by Ra to destroy mankind. Ra changed his mind and the only way to stop Sekhmet was to ply her with drink and get her drunk.

12. Centaur – half man and half horse they’re wild and savage. There are centaurs in the Harry Potter series.

13. Yen-lo – the ruler and judge of the dead in China. He weighs the souls first. Those who were virtuous had light souls while sinners possessed heavy souls. The souls must past several tests before they can be reincarnated.

All of these seem unfriendly to me. I’m not sure I’d like to meet them, but they certainly provide inspiration for stories.

Do you have any favorite stories based on mythology? Which of the above would you prefer to face? Write a story about?

Source: Mythology, an Eyewitness Book, by Neil Philip

Thirteen Latin Phrases in Common Use

Thursday Thirteen

Latin phrases are common in the English language. In fact some of them are so deeply entrenched we think of them as English.

Here are Thirteen Latin Phrases

1. Curriculum vitae – a history of work and school qualifications.

2. Carpe diem – seize the day!

3. Circa – approximately

4. Versus – against. Often abbreviated to v or vs

5. Status quo – the existing state of affairs

6. Modus operandi – method of operation

7. Ergo – therefore

8. Post mortem – after death

9. Terra firma – solid ground

10. Persona non grata – an unwelcome person

11. Stet – let it stand. Most writers know this one.

12. In flagrante delicto – caught in the act. Often used in relation to sex.

13.Veni, vidi, vici – I came, I saw, I conquered. Said b y Julius Caesar after a rebellion in Greece.

Source: The Dangerous Book for Boys (NZ Edition) by Gonn Iggulden & Hal Iggulden

Are you familiar with these? Can you add any others?

Corey, the Werewolf, Loves Chocolate, and I Do Too!

Thursday Thirteen

Lone Wolf, my fourth Samhain Publishing release is due out on 23 August. Corey, one of the heroes has a liking for chocolate, which R.J., the other hero indulges.

“Yeah.” R.J. gave him a quick kiss and pulled a small bar of chocolate out of his pocket. He tucked it in Corey’s waistband. “Take care, kid. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

In honor of R.J. and Corey’s story, today I’m giving you a list of my favorite chocolate things.

Thirteen Chocolate Treats That I Adore

1. Chocolate Chip Cookies – I like the ones with huge chunks of chocolate.

2. Pain Au Chocolate – preferably still warm from the oven and partnered with a latte.

3. Hot chocolate – nothing better on a cold winter’s day.

4. Chilli chocolate – very dark chocolate with the bite of chilli peppers. Very yummy!

5. Chocolate cake – rich and moist with thick chocolate icing and partnered with a glass of cold milk.

6. A chocolate milkshake – the thick kind that is hard to drink through a straw.

7. Choccywoccydoodah – I like watching this program on TV. The shop is in Brighton, England, and their cakes look amazing!

8. Whittakers Ghana Peppermint Chocolate – this is New Zealand chocolate. It’s dark chocolate with a mint filling. They have a very cool ad, which is on Youtube, but it has an over 18 warning on it because of nudity. Link to Whittakers’ ad.

9. After dinner mints – I love the combination of chocolate and mint.

10. Moritz ice creams – various flavors of ice cream with a thick coating of chocolate that crackles when you take a bite.

11. Chocolate truffles – hubby makes some delicious ones that have a hint of orange in them. Yum!

12. Double Choc Muffins – for morning tea with a cup of coffee.

13. Scorched Almonds – I usually only eat these at Christmas time. Almonds covered with a thick coating of chocolate. Very addictive because one is not enough.

What is your favorite chocolate item?

The 13 Step Guide to The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton

Thursday Thirteen

I have author, Miranda Neville visiting me today. She’s celebrating the release of her historical romance, The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton, which is out at Avon on July 26. Her heroine, Celia is taming a dandy, among other things. Please welcome Miranda and read on to learn about Celia…

The 13 Step Guide to The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton

1. The hero starts out needing a good kick in the behind. Tarquin Compton is London’s social leader, famous for his fine figure, perfect dress, and poisonously witty tongue. Someone needs to take him down a peg, or three.

2. Celia Seaton is the woman to do it. He ruined her marriage prospects and she’s angry.

3. When she finds him the wilderness, having lost his memory and most of his clothes, she tells him his name is Terence Fish and they are betrothed.

4. Tarquin isn’t pleased, but “Terence” turns out to be a different guy than she expected: kind, brave, amusing – and really hot.

5. In fact he’s just the man to help her escape across the moors, pursued by the villains who kidnapped her.

6. Tarquin happens to have a naughty novel with him, which Celia finds highly educational. And you know what happens when a man and a woman spend several days alone together. There’s a reason they used to have chaperones.

7. They fall in love.

8. Tarquin gets his memory back and the real trouble starts. He goes back to being the rude dandy she hates so much. Or does he? Perhaps he’s changed.

9. A house party in a ducal mansion provides opportunities for late night corridor prowling.

10. We find out why Tarquin became the way he is – and how he discovers the socially unacceptable Celia is the woman he wants and needs.

11. We learn what Celia’s kidnappers want – and how it relates to the shameful secrets of her past.

12. We meet the villains, some more desperate – and more villainous – than others and learn how our intrepid hero and heroine foil them (of course) as true love overcomes all obstacles (of course)

13. The thirteenth point I leave up to you. What would you like to know?

The Amourous Education of Celia Seaton Blurb:

Being kidnapped teaches Miss Celia Seaton a few things about life

LESSON ONE
Never disrobe in front of a gentleman … unless his request comes at gunpoint.

LESSON TWO
If, when lost on the moors, you encounter Tarquin Compton, the leader of London society who ruined your marriage prospects, deny any previous acquaintance.

LESSON THREE
If offered an opportunity to get back at Mr. Compton, the bigger the lie, the better. A faux engagement should do nicely.

LESSON FOUR
Not all knowledge is found between the covers of a book. But an improper book may further your education in ways you never guessed.

And while an erotic novel may be entertaining, the real thing is even better.

Purchase The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton

To learn more about Miranda and her books visit her website.

CONTEST: Miranda is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift card to one commenter during her blog tour. The winner will be drawn at the conclusion of Miranda’s tour. For full details and more chances to win follow the VBT for The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton

How To Write a Love Letter

Thursday Thirteen

I came across a book called Good Old Fashioned Advice by Michael Powell. It includes a section on the proper way to write a love letter. It’s a dying art, but one I think is very romantic because it demonstrates thought and takes an effort when these days it’s far easier to fire off an email, telephone or send a text.

Mr. Powell suggests the following steps will produce a successful love letter:

1. Write from the heart. If you are sincere, honest and caring, your words will find a natural rhythm and music.

2. Use high quality parchment and handwrite in ink.

3. If you have poor handwriting find someone who has good, tidy writing to write your letter for you. The visual impression will create a romantic disposition in the recipient even before they read the letter.

4. Check your spelling and punctuation. As the author says, love may be may be blind but it notices bad grammar.

5. A love letter should not be written lightly because toying with the affections of another is uncool.

6. Avoid purple prose. Simple writing is easier to read and more sincere.

7. Start your letter writing by placing a photo of your loved one in front of you. It’s good for inspiration.

8. Take your time. Don’t rush your letter writing.

9. Listen to some romantic music. The author suggests Chopin, Beethoven, Wagner or Tchaikovsky. I think we could probably go a bit more modern than that.

10. Write as you speak and think. A letter can be playful, flirtatious or witty, but it should carry your voice.

11. Be specific. Point out twelve unique qualities about your beloved.

12. Focus your letter on the two of you and nothing else.

13. End the letter by looking to the future. You want this relationship to last forever and to grow year by year. Let them know your thoughts and hopes for your life together.

Have you sent or received a love letter?

Thirteen Haunted Inns of Britain

Thursday Thirteen

The last time I visited my local library a book called Haunted Inns of Britain & Ireland by Richard Jones caught my eye. It’s full of info about ghosts and haunting, and I found it fascinating. I’ve even visited a couple of the pubs.

A list of Thirteen Haunted Pubs

1. The Mermaid Inn, Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex
The Mermaid has several ghosts, including a gray lady. Early one morning a resident woke to find a pair of phantom duelists, dressed in doublet and hose. They thrust and parried with their rapiers until one received a fatal wound.

2. The Chequers Inn, Smarden, Kent
In room 6, the staff sometimes see a clear impression of a person on the bed even though the room is empty. Dogs dislike the room with one dog requiring a tranquillizer to calm him. A female guest was woken by something scratching her back. Another woman woke to find a man standing in the open doorway. She shouted at him and he vanished.

3. The Spaniards Inn, Hampstead, London
Dick Turpin is one of the pub’s ex-customers and he stabled his mount Black Bess here. People hear Black Bess’ ghostly hoof beats gallop across the car park in the dead of the night.

4. The Ostrich Inn, Slough, Berkshire
A landlord used to ply his rich guests with drink, and once they were asleep in his best room, he’d unbolt a special trapdoor and tip them from their beds into a vat of boiling oil below. Then, he’d sell their horse and belongings. He did very nicely until a guest saw his bed tilt and shouted for help. Staff at the pub complain about a sinister atmosphere while loud noises wake the landlords. It’s said one of the victims causes the noises.

5. Jamaica Inn, Launceston, Cornwall
Made famous by Daphne du Maurier’s novel Jamaica Inn. Several ghosts wander the old hostelry. A ghost stands outside near a particular wall. He doesn’t answer greetings, but will slowly dissolve and vanish.

6. The Knife and Cleaver, Bedfordshire
A male and a female ghost reside here. One day a barman watched the pages of the booking diary turn by themselves. Then a ghostly hand appeared over his shoulder. He wasn’t sure which ghost it was and didn’t wait to find out.

7. The Bull Hotel, Suffolk
Doors open and close by themselves. Objects fly across the room and chairs move during the night. It’s said Richard Everard, who was stabbed to death, is the cause of this activity.

8. The Lifeboat Inn, Thornham, Norfolk
The landlady decided the pub was missing a resident ghost and made one up. The staff were shocked when they actually started seeing a tall, dark stranger as described by the landlady in her pub brochure.

9. The Scole Inn, Scole Diss, Norfolk
A husband suspected his wife of having an affair. He murdered his wife in a fit of rage. Fast forward in time and visitors to the inn have reported sightings of a sad lady in room 2.

10. The Fleece Inn, Evesham, Worcestershire
It’s said the ghost of Lola Taplin, a previous landlady, haunts the inn. She always banned food and only served alcohol. Customers have watched their sandwiches tossed in the air and thrown across the room. Ghostly footsteps are also heard.

11. Ye Old Black Bear, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire
A headless figure has been seen walking across creaking floors and dragging his chains behind him. It’s thought he is one of the Lancastrians defeated by a group of Yorkists at the Battle of Tewkesbury.

12. The Puesdown Inn, Compton Abdale, Cheltenham
This used to be a coaching inn frequented by highwaymen. One of the ghosts is said to be a highwayman who was shot. He returned to the inn and knocked loudly on the door, demanding entrance. Ghostly knocking is often heard while one landlord saw a ghostly coach pulling into the yard.

13. The West Arms Hotel, Llangollen, Denbighshire
The hotel is haunted by a blue lady. It’s said a woman was killed in a fire that broke out in the pub. If a fire is lit in the front lounge, the blue lady appears.

Have you visited any haunted places? Have you seen a ghost?