Bash and the Chocolate Milk Cows by Burton W. Cole

Beamer stays at his aunt’s farm for a week and Bash, his adventurous cousin, is full of schemes. This just happens to be the week of April Fool’s Day. Bash doesn’t just plan tricks for the actual day and Beamer joins in on some of the planning.

One crazy prank follows the next as the boys and some neighborhood friends edge closer to their biggest trick of all—getting chocolate milk from cows on the farm!

I have to confess that snagged my attention, even as an adult. How were they going to pull off that trick?

This is a fun novel for elementary children.

One of the grils is thinking about getting baptized as the story talks about in the Farmin’ and Fishin’ Book (other folks call it a Bible) and it starts Beamer to thinking about it too.

The book is geared to children 8 – 12. As a chapter book, it also is a great book for parents to read to their children at bedtime.

I will look for more books by this author.

-Sandra Merville Hart



Keto Chocolate Mousse

by Sandra Merville Hart

I planned to make dessert for a family gathering over the holidays. My son-in-law, who has been following the Keto diet for months, asked me to make something he could eat without cheating.

Since I was making a frozen chocolate mousse pie for everyone else, I decided to make a version for him that he felt good about eating.

Searches online revealed lots of possibilities. I settled on a Quick Keto Chocolate Mousse, partially because I had all the ingredients in my fridge or pantry.

I melted unsweetened baking chocolate and used it instead of cocoa powder. My zero-calorie sweetener was Sweet’N Low because the package contained a great chart showing exactly how many packets equaled ¼ cup, 1/3 cup, ½ cup, and 1 cup of granulated sugar. The original recipe calls for ¼ cup powdered zero-calorie sweetener.

To ensure there was leftover dessert, I tripled the recipe.

What an easy dessert to prepare! My son-in-law was thrilled to enjoy chocolate mousse while everyone else ate pie.

You might prefer a different sweetener.

I’m so glad I tried it. Keto lovers, let me know what you think if you make it.


“Quick Keto Chocolate Mousse,” Allrecipes, 2020/11/26



Winnie the Pooh Day

by Sandra Merville Hart

Of all the characters in children’s books I’ve read, Alan Alexander Milne’s Winnie the Pooh may be my favorite. This character was based on the author’s son’s teddy bear. In fact, the boy’s collection also included a tiger, a donkey, a piglet, and two kangaroos. Christopher Robin, his son, is the boy in the stories. Owl and Rabbit lived only in Milne’s imagination … and now in ours.

Even the story’s setting is real—the Hundred Acre Wood is patterned after the Ashdown Forest near Milne’s East Sussex home. Milne walked through the woods with Christopher. E.H. Shepard, the books’ illustrator, used Ashdown Forest as inspiration for his drawings.

Readers sense the love and wisdom within the pages of Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner from a “Bear of Very Little Brain.” Christopher Robin is a sweet, compassionate boy with unending patience for the scrapes in which his best friend Winnie the Pooh finds himself.

Poor Eeyore is always gloomy yet lovable. Piglet is often afraid. Roo is always ready to play. Tigger is full of enthusiasm that grates on Rabbit’s nerves. All of them rely on the wisdom of Owl, who is perhaps not as wise as he thinks.

Milne created a lovable cast of everyday characters that live on today. Though he wrote humorous stories, plays, screenplays, poems, and a detective novel, it is his stories for children that have endured.

Yet Milne stopped writing children’s stories as his son, who had been an inspiration for them. grew older. The fame of the real Christopher Robin appalled his father. It was far more publicity than he desired for his young son.

A.A. Milne’s amazingly successful Winnie the Pooh made it difficult to write in other genres. He simply wanted to write whatever he wanted. That door closed.

Upon his death, the family received rights to his Pooh books as well as the Westminster School, the Royal Literary Fund, and the Garrick Club. Over the years, the beneficiaries eventually sold their interest to Disney Corporation.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame gave a star to Winnie the Pooh in 2006, an honor that Milne likely never imagined.

January 18th is known as Winnie the Pooh Day as a celebration of A.A. Milne’s birthday on that day in 1882.


“A.A. Milne,” Wikipedia, 2020/12/14,

“A.A. Milne: 5 Facts About ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ Author,” Biography, 2020/12/14

“Winnie the Pooh,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2020/12/14


Three Little Things by Patti Stockdale

Hatti Waltz comes to town to cheer for and say goodbye to local soldiers. It’s 1917, and Arno Kreger is one of the brave men heading for boot camp. She wishes she could forget him as easily as it seems he forgot her.

Arno wants to carry Hatti’s promise to write him. He wants to court her but her father doesn’t like him. He’s been warned away.

The war in Europe is against the Germans. Arno, an American with a German heritage, doesn’t have an easy time with fellow soldiers. His fists have landed him in trouble in the past, but that’s not the way to win Hatti’s heart.

This story highlights the conflict German-American soldiers faced on the home front and the power of letters to connect two hearts that long for one another.

The characters are believable with plenty of surprising twists that are true to the time. What intrigued me most was learning that the story is loosely set on the author’s grandparents.

A good book for lovers of American history and World War I.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Southern Gentleman by Yvonne Lehman

Book 2 of Finding Love in the Low Country series

Norah Brown just lost her sister in a tragic accident that also claimed the life of her sister’s boyfriend. Grief for both of them pales in comparison for their infant daughter, who must now grow up without them. Norah vows to take care of sweet Camille as she has done since the baby was born three months ago.

Thornton Winter lost his brother in the accident and he’s not about to shirk his duty to the niece he learned of as his brother lay dying. The beautiful Norah isn’t the type of woman his brother typically dated. No matter. He takes both of them into his home until custody is awarded.

Sparks fly as neither wants to give up Camille. Thornton believes Norah is the baby’s mother … why not allow him to keep believing it?

This story is tragic because of the real needs for the care of a little baby who will grow up not knowing her biological parents. It’s also thought-provoking, as both families want to raise her.

The characters are believable and likeable. There are twists and turns that kept me turning pages.

I’ve read other books by this author and she’s become one of my favorites.

-Sandra Merville Hart




by Sandra Merville Hart

I’ve been watching The Great British Baking Show and learning a lot about dishes that are new to me. Even more helpful is The Great British Baking Show Masterclass, where talented bakers Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry demonstrate their own recipes.

Paul Hollywood demonstrated a recipe for flaounes, a new dish to me. With the cheese filling baked with the pastry, it looked delicious. I watched him prepare the flaounes several times and wrote down all the instructions.

Finding the ingredients for this Cypriot pastry challenged me. I found Pecorino Romano cheese at a cheese shop while on vacation. The shop sold a wide variety of cheeses but I didn’t recall the name of the Halloumi cheese at the time. I found it later at a specialty grocery store.

Semolina flour is a new flour for me. My local grocer carries it.

I wasn’t able to find sultanas, which are made from green seedless grapes. I substituted raisins for sultanas.

Mahlepi, a Greek spice, wasn’t available in specialty grocery stores near more so I left it and the mastic powder out of my recipe. I’m certain this made a difference in the flavor, but I have to say it was delicious without them too.

Other than those differences, I followed his recipe. May I say that I appreciated his skills with pastry more than ever after making the dough. There is something to be said for years of experience.

Flaounes are a completely new flavor for me. The Halloumi cheese, a crumbly wet cheese, was also new to me.

The cheese filling really made the whole dish. It’s a filling lunch. I ate several bites before deciding that I really liked it.

I’m so glad I tried it. Let me know what you think if you make it.


“Flaounes,” BBC Food, 2020/11/23

“Raisins vs Sultanas vs Currants: What’s the Difference?” Healthline, 2020/11/23

Last Confederate Surrender

by Sandra Merville Hart

Most people believe the Civil War ended when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. Not exactly. There were several other Confederate armies that had to surrender.

Rather than surrender, Colonel John S. Mosby, leader of “Mosby’s Raiders,” disbanded his cavalry troops on April 21, 1865.

General Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee surrendered at the Bennett Place to Union General Sherman with the final agreement signed on April 26, 1865.

Lieutenant General Richard Taylor surrendered his  Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana to Union Major General Edward Canby at Citronville, Alabama, on May 4, 1865.

Major General Dabney Maury surrendered his  Confederate District of the Gulf  to Union Major General Edward Canby at Citronville, Alabama, on May 4, 1865.

Brig. General M. Jeff Thompson surrendered his  Sub-District of Northwest Arkansas at two Arkansas locations, Wittsburg and Jacksonport, on May 11, 1865.

Brig. General William T. Wofford surrendered his Department of North Georgia    to Union Brigadier General Henry M. Judah in Kingston, Georgia, on May 12, 1865.

Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of Trans-Mississippi Department, signed a surrender aboard the USS Fort Jackson just outside Galveston Harbor on June 2, 1865.

Cherokee General Stand Watie surrendered his First Indian Brigade at Doaksville on June 23, 1865.

After General Lee’s surrender, the other Confederate armies soon followed.

Yet the last surrender may surprise you, for this one didn’t even take place in the United States.

The CSS Shenandoah was purchased in England for the Confederate States Navy in 1864. Formerly the Sea King, the ship was converted to a warship in the Atlantic Ocean near the Spanish coast. Confederate Lt. James Iredell Waddell commanded the ship.

Waddell renamed the ship CSS Shenandoah. It required at least 150 men to sail and operate the warship. When he left the coast of Spain, he had only recruited 43 men for his crew. Since the ship’s task was to disrupt Union shipping, Waddell and his officers decided to increase its crew from the capture of Union ships.

They sailed toward the Cape of Good Hope and then toward Melbourne, Australia, successfully capturing Union ships, cargo, and crews. Some ships were burned or sunk and others were ransomed. The officers and crew of CSS Shenandoah had been quite successful in pursuing Union merchant ships when they had to stop for repairs on January 25, 1865, in Melbourne, Australia.

The crew grew from captured crew members just as Waddell had hoped.

After repairs were completed, Waddell sailed the Pacific Ocean in search of the American whaling fleet and captured ships near the equator in April. The CSS Shenandoah had set sail for the Bering Sea when General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, though Waddell, being in the middle of the ocean, was unaware of this first of several surrenders. He continued his pursuit of Union merchant ships.

Upon reaching the Bering Sea on June 21st, the CSS Shenandoah captured two whalers the next day. Captain Francis Smith of the William Thompson informed Waddell that the war had ended. Waddell didn’t believe him and burned both the William Thompson and the Euphrates as Union ships.

If the war had ended as Captain Smith claimed, future capture of Union ships risked a charge of piracy. Unconvinced, Waddell continued his mission.

Thirty-eight ships had been captured or destroyed by the CSS Shenandoah when Waddell learned of the war’s end from a source he trusted. The crew of the Barracouta, a British ship, gave him the news on August 2, 1865.

Hoping to escape being charged with piracy and hung, Waddell sailed for Liverpool, England. The 9,000-mile voyage took three months. The ship’s crew, fearing capture if it replenished supplies at a port, never stopped. Union ships pursued the CSS Shenandoah the whole journey.

Waddell surrendered in Liverpool to the HMS Donegal on November 6, 1865. It was the final surrender of the Civil War.

Sources Editors. “CSS Shenandoah learns the war is over,” A&E Television Networks, 2020/12/28

Marcello, Paul J. “Shenandoah 1864-1865,” Naval History and Heritage Command, 2020/12/28

Plante, Trevor K. “Ending the Bloodshed,” Prologue Magazine National Archives, 2021/01/04



Traces by Denise Weimer

Kate Carson has been invited to compete in a reality TV show where she and a partner will evade the show’s hunters for days. Her company, which recently installed a surveillance camera in Atlanta, encourages her to participate for the publicity. A breakup with her boyfriend prompts her agreement. Also, her brother will be her partner. First, she has some information about shady dealings at her job for a reporter friend to investigate.

Alex Mitchell works at the same company but he barely knows her when the reality show pairs them up to go on the run together. The ex-military man is determined to win the prize money and has little patience for Kate’s decision to back out before the game begins.

But the greatest danger they face isn’t from the game …

This fast-paced story kept me turning pages. The characters were likeable but Kate’s refusal to see the mounting danger frustrated me. Her choices escalate the danger.

Suspenseful! The growing romance along with plenty of twists and turns held my interest. This one cost me some sleep as I had to stay up late to find out what happened.

I’ll look for more books by this author.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas