Written on His Hand

“See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”   Isaiah 49:16a

“Mom, do you know what this word says?” my teenaged daughter asked me, revealing a Hebrew word on her upturned palm.

I shook my head.

“It’s God’s name.  He wrote my name on His hand, so I wrote His name on mine.”  She explained that while on a retreat, she and the other girls put Yahweh on their hands using a henna, a kind of temporary tattoo.

My daughter inspired me. I thought about God’s huge hand that measured the waters of the earth (Isaiah 40: 12).  Surely the hand that marked off the Heavens could hold a vast number of names–that includes yours and mine!

Just like my daughter, it gives me a special feeling to know that my Heavenly Father thinks so highly of me that He etched my name on the palm of His hand.  It’s a constant reminder of how greatly God cherishes His children.

If we could grasp how precious we are to God, I think it would alter the way we view ourselves forever.  We are of great worth to God.

My daughter definitely understood that having her name engraved on God’s Hand makes her special in His eyes.  As I watch her faith grow, my own faith deepens.  As precious as she is to me, she is even more precious to God.

The current craze of tattoos has people placing symbols on themselves that are meaningful to them.  It seems God thought of this first.  His loved ones are written on the palm of His hand.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Carolina Reckoning by Lisa Carter

A page-turner!

Alison Monaghan finally has the proof she never wanted—a photograph that proves her husband has been unfaithful to her. She’s ready to confront him when he returns from his latest trip.

She never sees him alive again.

Instead he is found dead on a lonely road near a historic park where he serves on the board.

Mike Barefoot, the homicide detective assigned to the case, immediately suspects Alison even as his heart goes out to her teenaged son and daughter. It isn’t long before Mike trusts in Alison’s innocence, yet protecting her becomes a challenge.

Driven by a need to discover the truth, Alison takes a job at the historic park near the location of her husband’s death—against Mike’s advice.

Her growing feelings for Mike can’t prevent her from seeking the truth. Danger lurks as Alison digs deeper. Is any place safe?

I found myself pulling for the whole family because the author shows their struggles with cruel acquaintances they’d once considered friends. The budding romance between Mike and Alison also shows how they both struggle with past relationships and circumstances. Can they overcome mounting obstacles before someone else dies?

Recommend! I will look for more novels by this author.

-Sandra Merville Hart





Milk Shake Recipe

Spring is in the air—at least, I hope so!—and I’m looking forward to warmer weather, walks in the park, and picnics.

I found this recipe for milk shakes that is easy to vary. If you have a blender, you can make this.

I had chocolate truffle ice cream in my freezer. The recipe calls for 1 – 2 scoops—I used 2 scoops for a single 16-ounce serving.

Pour ¾ cup of milk into the blender. Add ice cream. Next, the recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (or 2 tablespoons of your choice of syrup.) I love the vanilla flavor so I chose the vanilla extract.

Replace blender lid and blend a few seconds or until desired consistency.

I put a dollop of whipped cream for my husband, which he appreciated.

The shake turned out smooth and creamy. I liked it, yet 2 teaspoons of extract overpowered the flavor. All I tasted was vanilla. I’d cut the amount of extract at least in half. For a single serving, ½ teaspoon extract should be sufficient to flavor the drink without overpowering the ice cream. I’m thinking that orange extract with vanilla ice cream would be delicious!

Also, there are many syrups that you could try instead—chocolate, caramel, coffee, peppermint, strawberry, and raspberry to name a few. Varying the syrups and the ice cream flavor will make this a fun summer treat for your child’s parties, picnics, and family gatherings.


-Sandra Merville Hart


Revised by Cunningham, Marion and Laber, Jeri. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1983.



10 Family-Friendly Things to do During our Stay-At-Home

Many of us are staying at home right now. We are working from home while our children are off from school.

In thinking of positive things to do during this time, I’ve already washed my curtains and plan to do some spring cleaning as time allows, but let’s have fun with our loved ones while soccer practices and dance lessons are cancelled.

Here are a few ideas:

1) Movie night

Take turns selecting movies so that everyone gets into the fun while making sure that the show is appropriate for each person in the room. Don’t forget the popcorn!

2) Themed dinner nights such as:

Meatloaf Monday or burgers

Taco Tuesday

Wacky Wednesday can be hodge-podge meal of menu items that don’t normally go together like Spaghetti and peanut butter sandwiches. Ask your children for ideas—they’ll be creative!

Thermal Thursday—spicy dishes or soup and sandwiches

Fish Friday

3) Puzzles

Put up your card table, if possible, so that you can leave the puzzle out for a few days depending on how fast you work.

4) If your budget allows, order carryout meals for your family. Pizza, chicken, burgers, wings, and sandwiches will be a treat and will also help our favorite restaurants make it through these challenging times.

5) Board game night

Many of us have a few board games on a shelf. Dust them off and plan a fun game night. Take turns allowing each person—no matter their age—to select the next game. Doing this helps with grumbling because each one knows their turn is coming to select a game.

6) Make dessert together.

Do you have a delicious chocolate cake recipe? Does you banana bread always get compliments? Do your children love your chocolate chip cookies? Invite them to bake a batch with you. It may be messy but messes can be cleaned. The fun your children have creating their favorite dessert is worth biting your tongue and keeping the atmosphere light and happy.

7) Video game night

Remember those video games in your cabinet? Why not use them in that gaming system none of you have thought of for months? Take turns playing each one’s favorites.

8) Silly Saturday—have some silly fun with your family!

a. Wear pajamas all day

b. Eat breakfast food for supper

c, Crazy hair day—on purpose!

d. Ask your children for silly ideas and select one.

9) Stay active!

a. Enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. If possible, play in the yard. Sit on your balcony or porch. Walk in the park if it’s open, maintaining social distance.

b. Create dance steps to your favorite song. Involve as many family members as possible. Consider input from everyone in the home. Practice the steps and then take a video. Share it if you like. Your video will encourage others.

c. Many of us have exercise DVDs tucked away in the cabinet. Pull them out and do one daily.

10) Read a book!

This is the perfect time to curl up with a good book. If you want new selections, it’s very easy to buy print books and eBooks. Authors are small businesses too.


Many churches are live-streaming worship services so this will help us stay connected to others too.

I hope this list sparked ideas for fun activities with your family. I’d love to hear about it if you’d like to share.

I am saying a prayer for the health and safety for all my loved ones. If you’re reading this, you’re included! Stay safe and healthy. Love to all.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Transplanted Tree at the Alamo

My husband and I traveled to San Antonio, Texas, last year. While there, we visited the Alamo. In addition to the historical significance of the battle fought there in 1836, we walked through its beautiful gardens.

One of the trees caught my eye. The oak tree had been transported in 1912. What makes that more significant is that the large tree was already forty-years-old at the time! The tree has been alive since 1872.

In 1912, Walter Whall accomplished a feat by moving a large tree. He carefully dug up the tree and removed dirt from the roots. It was loaded onto a cart. Four mules pulled the heavy tree through the streets. Avoiding knocking against telegraph and power lines were Whall’s greatest challenge with the transport.

The Alamo Live Oak has flourished in the Alamo’s courtyard for 108 years. Sitting beside an abandoned well, heavy limbs rest against the ground at points and then reach toward the sky again.

The tree’s circumference measures 12 feet, 9 inches and it stands at just over 39 feet. An impressive history for a tree that somehow demands notice.

May it thrive another 148 years.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Maeckle, Monika. “Heritage Tree: Live Oak at the Alamo,” Rivard Report, 2020/01/03

Heritage Tree: Live Oak at the Alamo


Rico, Sharon. “Remember the Alamo (and its gardens),” Daily Republic, 2020/01/03 https://www.dailyrepublic.com/all-dr-news/solano-news/local-features/local-lifestyle-columns/remember-the-alamo-a-visit-to-its-gardens-colorful-worthwhile/.


The Trouble in Willow Falls by Pat Nichols

Willow Falls Series Book 2

Willow Falls is a quaint town in North Georgia. Unfortunately, that town is dying.

Emily Hayes, mother of twin baby girls, has difficulty finding time to rewrite her recently rejected novel. Her husband doesn’t know how long he can keep their store open with dwindling numbers of customers.

Rachel Streetman, Emily’s twin, pursues an acting career in nearby Atlanta.

Emily and Rachel both agree to put aside their careers to write and direct a play that just might bring tourists back to Willow Falls.

This story is filled with twists and turns that I didn’t anticipate, bringing constant challenges to the townspeople. Minor characters add depth and dimension in a refreshing way. So much effort is spent to save the dying town that the town itself almost seems like another character.

I am a fan of small towns, especially those that feel their heyday is in the past. Sometimes all it takes is a few people to believe in the possibilities and that is what this book demonstrates. I was pulling for the characters and the town throughout the novel.

I enjoyed this novel by Pat Nichols and am wondering what may happen in Book 3.

-Sandra Merville Hart


A Manual of Etiquette With Hints on Politeness and Good Breeding

Sophia Orne Johnson (1826-1899) wrote under the pen name of Daisy Eyebright. Her book, A Manual of Etiquette With Hints on Politeness and Good Breeding, originally published in 1868.

This book is a wonderful look at society in the United States shortly after the Civil War. It covers etiquette for the home with advice for children’s behavior and learning polite manners.

Social visits, behavior in traveling, table etiquette, dinner parties, letter-writing, the art of conversation, evening entertaining, and weddings are some of the topics covered.

Even marriage advice is given and, may I say, times have certainly changed!

I enjoyed reading this book as a lens into society and the way people lived 150 years ago. This is also the time period of my next Civil War series. This book offered many gems and even a few plot ideas for my research.

Lovers of history will enjoy this glimpse into the past.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Ways to Keep Eggs Fresh without Refrigeration

Have you ever wondered how pioneers kept food fresh in the days before refrigeration? I have. I’m sure that part of my curiosity stems from writing historical novels, but that’s not the only reason. I love history!

These methods are from an 1877 cookbook.

Mrs. H.S. Huntington suggests several methods—yet they all start with the using fresh eggs.

  • Place 2 inches of salt in a stone jar. Add a layer of eggs with the small end pointed down. Then another layer of salt and then eggs until the jar is almost full. The final layer is salt. Cover and store in a cool place not cold enough to freeze the eggs.
  • Dip the eggs in melted wax.
  • Dip the eggs in a weak solution of gum.
  • Dip the eggs in flaxseed oil. (Wax, gum, and flaxseed oil make the shell air-resistant.) Using flaxseed oil was the best method, in Mrs. Huntington’s opinion, yet it discolors the eggs.
  • To prepare eggs for winter: Boil water in a large pot. Arrange eggs in a wire basket and lower them slowly into the water for a count of ten. Then remove the basket from the water slowly to avoid crackage. After this, pack them in salt as described above.

Mrs. Henry Ward Beecher (yes, this is likely the wife of the famous minister) shared another method of preserving eggs.

Slake (combine) a pound of stone lime in 2 gallons of water. Allow it to chill. Then stir in a pint of salt and let it settle until clear.

Select a keg, half-barrel, or stone pot for storage. Pack eggs carefully inside with the small end down. Remove any eggs that crack because even one cracked egg will ruin the whole batch.

Once eggs are packed close together, pour lime water gently over them “without disturbing the sediment” and cover completely. Wait a few minutes and add more water so the eggs are thoroughly covered.

Close the jar. Don’t open until the eggs are needed.

Have you learned of other methods?

-Sandra Merville Hart


Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.


The Battle of the Alamo

The Alamo, originally Mission San Antonio de Valero, was built as a Spanish mission in the 1700s and later was used by the Spanish as a fort. They called it the “Alamo,” a word for a poplar tree, especially the cottonwood trees growing in the area.

In 1835, the area which is now Texas was under Mexican rule. American pioneers were allowed to own land there if they were Catholic. Some converted to purchase the land yet remained Protestant in practice.

Leading up to this time, Mexico had gained independence from Spain and then changed Presidents several times. President General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was the current leader. There was a lot of unrest and Texans wanted their freedom.

Two hundred Texas volunteers attacked Mexican troops in San Antonio de Bexar under General Martin Perfecto de Cos and at the Alamo a quarter mile away on December 5, 1835. Cos surrendered, signing documents that gave all the arms, public property, and money in San Antonio de Bexar to the Texans and left. Some of the Texas volunteers moved into the fort while others went home.

Santa Anna marched his army (historical accounts vary on whether he had 1,500 or 8,000 soldiers) toward the Alamo in retaliation.

Anticipating the coming attack, Lieutenant Colonel William B. Travis and Colonel James Bowie took command of the Alamo by February. Though there was friction between the two leaders, Bowie led the volunteers and Travis commanded the regular army.

Travis sent repeated letters requesting men and supplies. The well-known David Crockett and 14 Tennessee Mounted Volunteers were among the few men who arrived at the Alamo in advance of the battle. By the time  Santa Anna’s army began cannon and rifle fire on February 23, 1836, about 180 – 190 men protected the Alamo.

Texans bravely held their ground for 13 days. At dawn on March 6th, they held off the first two charges by Santa Anna’s army. On the third charge, they went over the walls. Santa Anna’s orders were to take no prisoners. It was hand-to-hand combat but the Texan soldiers, being outnumbered, were killed. There were only a few survivors—a few family members of the soldiers.

There were casualties in the Mexican army. Many historians estimate this number at about 600.

While this was a great tragedy, the battle bought time for Sam Houston’s 800 men to be ready to fight Santa Anna at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, where they captured Santa Anna and defeated his army. That battle guaranteed the independence of Texas.

As they fought, Houston’s men shouted, “Remember the Alamo!”

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Battle of the Alamo,” Wikipedia, 2020/01/03 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Alamo.

History.com Editors. “The Alamo,” A&E Television Networks, 2020/01/03 https://www.history.com/topics/Mexico/alamo.

Nelson, Ken. “US History: The Battle of the Alamo for Kids.” Ducksters, Technological Solutions, Inc. (TSI), http://www.ducksters.com/history/us_1800s/battle_of_the_alamo.php. Accessed 3 January 2020.

Paul, Lee. “The Alamo: 13 Days of Glory,” HistoryNet, 2020/01/03 https://www.historynet.com/battle-of-the-alamo.


Hope’s Highest Mountain by Misty M. Beller

Hearts of Montana Series, Book One

Ingrid Chastain shares the urgency of her father, a doctor, to deliver life-saving vaccines to a town in the Montana Territory but she is the sole survivor of a terrible wagon accident.

Dr. Micah Bradley has been living in the remote mountains for years … since his inadequacies cost his wife and daughter their lives. Yet when he stumbles on Ingrid after the accident, he must call on his skills again to set and heal her broken leg.

Before long, Ingrid insists on taking the vaccines to Settler’s Fort without further delay. Lives depend upon the medicine. Micah realizes she’s right. She can’t walk and he can’t leave her in the mountains to die. He’ll have to figure out a way to carry her to town, a journey of weeks by foot.

I fell in love with characters early in the story. There were several surprising turns, challenges, and dangers that kept my interest. This is a well-written story that makes me want to read the next book in the series.

Recommend! I will look for more books by this author.

-Sandra Merville Hart