My Heart Remembers by Kim Vogel Sawyer


After a fire tragically claims their parents’ lives, three orphans are placed on an orphan train for adoption. Maelle, the oldest at eight, hopes to keep her family together but all three are separated.

Maelle won’t give up until she finds her brother and sister.

This story touched me deeply. My heart broke at the struggles faced by each sibling as they become adults and still long to find each other.

With believable, lovable characters, this story remained with me long after I read it.

Highly recommended!

-Review by Sandra Merville Hart



The Right Time to Eat


The author of an 1841 cookbook, Sarah Josepha Hale, advised her readers about eating hours. Those on a regular schedule should eat at a set time; those living on irregular schedules should eat when they get hungry.

Laborers need larger meals more often than idle or inactive people.
analog-clock-1295631_960_720Eat meals about five hours apart; active people require food more often.

Young people experiencing growth spurts eat often.

Feed children under seven every three hours. Hale recommended a slice of bread as a healthy lunch.

baby-472922_960_720Don’t set an eating schedule for infants for the first few months because their constitutions vary. Feed the baby when hungry.

Don’t exercise before breakfast if you tend to become sick easily (delicate constitution.)

Never enter the sick room of someone ill with fever before eating breakfast or at least drinking coffee.

Planning an early morning departure? Make sure to eat a light breakfast as protection against weariness and cold.

Don’t eat a big supper right before going to bed.

It’s harmful to eat when overheated or exhausted. Rest about fifteen minutes before dining.

Much of this “1841” advice still rings true today.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Hale, Sarah Josepha. Early American Cookery: “The Good Housekeeper.” 1841, Dover Publications , Inc., 1996.



Mark Twain’s Observations about Pony Express Riders


Pony Express Riders delivered mail from 1860 – 1861. Mark Twain traveled west by stagecoach during this time and longed to see one of the riders.

Twain and his fellow travelers hoped to spot one of the “pony-riders” on their way from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California. It took a remarkable eight days for letters to travel 1,900 miles, an unheard-of speed.

Before seeing a pony-rider, Twain already had an idea what to expect. Small men filled with spirit and endurance rode fifty miles by day or night.

Splendid horses “fed and lodged like a gentleman” raced at top speeds for ten miles or so until reaching the next relay station. The rider crashed up to two men holding a fresh steed. He mounted the new horse and transferred the precious mailbag “in the twinkling of an eye” and was off again in a cloud of dust.

Riders wore thin, close-fitting clothing and a skull-cap. His pantaloons were tucked into his boots “like a race-rider.” He carried no weapons.

Horses traveled lightly, too. A small racing saddle hid a blanket if one existed.

A child’s primer would fill one of the two mail pockets. Mostly business or newspaper letters filled these mail bags; postage alone was five dollars per letter.

Forty pony-riders rode west toward California at the same time as forty traveled east toward Missouri all day and night, in spite of bad weather.

Stagecoaches traveled between 100 and 125 miles in twenty-four hours; pony-riders managed about 250 miles.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Pony Express,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2016/06/03

Twain, Mark. Roughing It, Penguin Books, 1985.


Blind Dates Can Be Murder by Mindy Starns Clark


There’s plenty of suspense in this romantic suspense novel!

Jo Tulip blogs about household hints to her many followers but has trouble in the relationship department. Her blind date dies at the restaurant and things escalate dangerously for Jo.

Her best friend, Danny, searches for the best time to reveal his love for Jo, and is frustrated at every turn. Jo and her closest friends befriend a young woman who isn’t the person she represents herself to be.

In fact, many things aren’t as they appear but the danger is real.

I was on the edge of my seat while reading this novel.

Highly recommended!

-Review by Sandra Merville Hart



Old-Fashioned Muffin Recipe Made with Bread Sponge


An 1877 cookbook compiled from original recipes teaches that the first step in making delicious bread is the sponge. My earlier article, “My Second Try at Making Bread Sponge,” showed my attempt at sponge.

I also used the second batch of sponge to make muffins. The recipe was based on one submitted by Mrs. Gib Hillock of New Castle, Indiana, for the 1877 book, Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping.

Two cups of sponge were combined with one teaspoon of baking powder. I interpreted “a little salt” as a ½ teaspoon of salt.

I separated two eggs. The egg yolks were beaten with a half cup of milk, my interpretation of “one tea-cup of sweet milk or cream.” Butter “half the size of an egg” became two tablespoons of melted butter added to the egg yolk mixture.

The sponge was added to the egg yolk mixture. Egg whites were stirred briskly with a whisk, added to the dough, and then well-beaten.

Mrs. Hillock used gem-pans, which are similar to muffin pans. A simple instruction to bake in a “hot oven” didn’t quite give me a suggested temperature so I baked them at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

The muffins tasted good and incredibly moist. These muffins tasted best warm from the oven.

I noticed the same texture difference as in the pumpkin bread. Next time I will use half sponge/half dry flour ingredients to see how it affects the texture.

I look forward to our next cooking adventure from the past. Happy cooking!

-Sandra Merville Hart



Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 2011.



Household Hints from Early 1900s – Part 2


A plate of lavender water prevents a sick-room from smelling like a hospital room. Light and burn the lavender water for a refreshing aroma that permeates the area. (This is one of my favorite scents, but today we might light a lavender-scented candle.)

Brush a cold, rusty stove top with kerosene. Allow it to stand for thirty minutes before rubbing it dry with soft paper towels. Apply a second coat of kerosene and wait a bit before scrubbing the stove with steel wool.

Here is a trick to soften cold butter. Pour hot water into a bowl and wait a few minutes. Empty the water. Turn the warmed bowl upside down over the butter, which will soon soften.

A metal bread box becomes a warming cabinet for food or dishes when placed on top of a radiator. The same metal box becomes a cooler in the summer by allowing it to sit in an ice chest. Then take it camping to keep foods cool. (Not sure how long the bread box retains the chill.)

Wipe windows with rubbing alcohol in the winter to prevent them from steaming in the cold.

Old cigar boxes make great first-aid boxes. Items suggested for the box were a jar of salve, small scissors, sterilized gauze, antiseptic wash, adhesive tape, and Band-Aids – not so different from today. These have gone a little out of style but it’s still a good idea to store necessary items in the same area for quick retrieval.

Leave a comment if you have tried any of these household hints or have a new one to add!

-Sandra Merville Hart



Rodack, Jaine. Forgotten Recipes, Wimmer Books, 1981.



A Novel Idea by Eddie Jones


This writing book is packed with helpful hints on strengthening your novel’s story.

The book shows the basics of plot, creating compelling characters, and dramatic dialogue. It also outlines tips for writing romantic comedies and cozy mysteries.

I’ve highlighted many sections for easy future reference. This book is a helpful tool for writers!

-Review by Sandra Merville Hart

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas  Use coupon code SandraMHart for a 20% discount on Lighthouse Publishing books!