A Currier & Ives Christmas

by Sandra Merville Hart

Four Stories of Love Come to Life from the Canvas of Classic Christmas Art

All four of these romances are feel-good stories set in historical snowy settings at Christmas.

In Lynn A. Coleman’s The Snow Storm, a widower needs to somehow push his grief for his wife aside and make Christmas special for his two sons. He rescues Angela, a young woman caught in a snow storm. Stranded at the cabin with her rescuer’s family, Angela cooks and cleans and prepares them for the holidays. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with her rescuer. The characters in this story captivated my heart, especially the two boys.

JoAnn A. Grote’s Image of Love is set in beautiful Minnesota in 1869. I loved this story about Mantie, a sister who shared responsibilities of raising her niece and nephew with her brother. With her brother and his new wife expecting a child, Mantie worries that they’ll want her to leave. Lane, a newcomer raising his little brother, captures her attention in this lighthearted romance. This story includes pearls of wisdom along the way.

Dreams and Secrets by DiAnn Mills is a story that has stayed with me, perhaps because the heroine, Emma Leigh, works so hard to help her ailing father provide for her large family. They are poverty-stricken and often go hungry. Thad, a man she’s known since childhood, wants to help them but her father is proud. Emma Leigh fears that her family needs her pay too much for the her to marry. I loved this touching story of love and sacrifice.  

In Circle of Blessings by Deborah Raney, James has worked hard to make up for past mistakes. He needs to tell Stella about his past before their courtship gets too serious. Stella, a student at the college where he teaches, tries to make her overprotective father comfortable about her relationship with James. I loved the characters and the story. It was an added bonus to glimpse college life in 1871.

I enjoyed this collection of light-hearted, easy-to-read romances!

Cottage Cheese Griddlecakes

by Sandra Merville Hart

I happened to notice this recipe for cottage cheese griddlecakes (pancakes) in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook while preparing another dish. I did a double-take. Yes, this pancake recipe has cottage cheese as the main ingredient. It was too different—I had to try it.

Place 1 cup of cottage cheese in a sieve. (I used a colander.) Press the cottage cheese down to start removing the moisture. Let it stand in the sieve for an hour over a bowl to allow it to dry.

Beat 3 eggs well in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the cottage cheese, 2 tablespoons melted butter, ¼ cup of flour, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Stir together just enough to blend the ingredients.

Add pats of butter to your griddle or skillet and allow it to melt on a medium heat. (A cast iron skillet worked best for me.) Pour ¼ cup of batter onto the hot skillet.

These griddlecakes are delicate. Wait slightly longer to turn than you would a normal pancake or they will fall apart. Then turn them gently.

What’s immediately noticeable is the difference in texture so your first pancake might be too done or not done enough as you figure it out. I let them cook a minute and then started to work the spatula around the edges to prepare it for turning.

Surprisingly good! In fact, they reminded me more of a potato pancake with the soft center than a regular pancake. Actually, the taste and texture is about halfway between breakfast pancakes and potato pancakes. They aren’t sweet and require no syrup. Two were a filling, satisfying meal.

I noticed that these were Keto except for the flour so I made them again. This time I substituted the flour for almond flour. I liked these even better with the hint of almond flavor—and they are low carb!

I love to find easy recipes for items normally stocked in the fridge and pantry. I’ll make this again when I want a low-carb pancake.

Let me know what you think!

Sources

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

An Excerpt from A Rebel in My House

by Sandra Merville Hart

Excerpt from A Rebel In My House:

Friday, June 26, 1863

Two miles outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Running feet on the dirt road outside quickened Sarah Hubbard’s heartbeat. Her fingers stiffened on her sewing machine and her back straightened.

Were they coming? Every conversation these days centered on the Confederate soldiers crossing into southern Pennsylvania.

“Miz Hubbard. Miz Hubbard, please let us in!”

Not soldiers but friends. Sarah’s body sagged at Elsie Craig’s voice, but why did she yell? Sarah dropped the gingham dress she’d been sewing and ran to throw open the front door. Alarmed at the fear lining Elsie’s dark face and eyes as she clutched the hand of her four-year-old daughter, Mae, Sarah scanned the horizon for Confederate soldiers. “Hurry inside.”

Elsie needed no second bidding. She guided Mae over the threshold and closed the door. “Miz Hubbard, you gotta hide us.” Her tall, thin body leaned against the door. “The Rebs are in town gathering up all the colored folks they can find. Someone said they’ll be taking them south as slaves and that they’re warning folks not to hide us.”

Sarah gasped. “Why do such a terrible thing?”

“Don’t make sense, does it? Some of us have lived in Gettysburg for years. Others like me have always been free, but it don’t seem to matter to the Southern army.” A long loaf of bread peeked out among jars and clothing in a well-laden basket Elsie set on the rug. She dropped to her knees and wrapped her arms around her trembling child. “I had to leave my house and most of my possessions, but I’ve got the most important thing right here.” She looked up at Sarah as she patted Mae’s shoulder. “Last week my Sam left for Pine Hill, the settlement up near Biglerville. With it being two miles off the main road to Carlisle, the Rebs won’t find him there. Sam never expected the army to come after women and children or he’d never have left us. I miss him something fierce. We’ll go to him when the soldiers get out of town.”

Tears etched tracks in a smudge on Mae’s cheek, tugging at Sarah’s heart as much as Elsie’s wide eyes and trembling hands. Sarah rushed to an open window and pushed aside the curtain a few inches. The Pennsylvania governor, Andrew Curtin, had declared a state of emergency two weeks earlier and called for local militia. Where was their help?

Book Blurb:

When the cannons roar beside Sarah Hubbard’s home outside of Gettysburg, she despairs of escaping the war that’s come to Pennsylvania. A wounded Confederate soldier on her doorstep leaves her with a heart-wrenching decision.

Separated from his unit and with a bullet in his back, Jesse Mitchell needs help. He seeks refuge at a house beside Willoughby Run. His future lies in the hands of a woman whose sympathies lay with the North.

Jesse has promised his sister-in-law he’d bring his brother home from the war. Sarah has promised her sister that she’d stay clear of the enemy. Can the two keep their promises amid a war bent on tearing their country apart?

Amazon

Book Trailer

This is the Lunch that Jesus Served by Dandi Daley Mackall

by Sandra Merville Hart

This is a fun children’s picture book about the boy who gave his lunch to Jesus.

The title is the first line of the book. As the story unfolds, each new line rhymes and builds on the previous pages so that the title is the last sentence on each page.

I read this book to my two-year-old granddaughter. The story is told in a repetitive, sing-song fashion and I read it rhythmically to her.

To my delight she got up and began to dance to the rhythm of the words! What a precious moment. As an author, I want her to love books, the written word. This book, read rhythmically, showed her the music written words can bring.

Recommended for children 2 – 7.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Hope Harbor by Irene Hannon

by Sandra Merville Hart

Book 1 in the Hope Harbor Series

Tracy Campbell’s days are filled with shared ownership and the never-ending duties of running a struggling cranberry farm. She tries to supplement finances with accounting jobs yet it never seems to be enough. Time is in short supply for the widow, as she also works for the area’s charitable organization, Helping Hands.

Widower Michael Hunter spends a well-deserved leave from heading up a Chicago charitable organization on Hope Harbor. His wife had often vacationed here as a child. He’d promised her they’d come together. Now that opportunity was gone.

Guilt plagues both of them for past mistakes in this contemporary romance.

Miracles seem to happen in Hope Harbor, a place where I, as a reader, wanted to spend some time. Authentic characters with realistic struggles drew me into the story. Secondary plots strengthen the novel’s impact.

The story is told in multiple viewpoints. Many interesting characters are introduced along the way, hinting that they might have a bigger part to play in upcoming novels.

Looks like it will be a great series. I’m looking forward to reading more of Hannon’s books!

Blueberry Griddlecakes

by Sandra Merville Hart

My preschool grandchildren love to cook with me so I often search for easy recipes to involve them. This recipe for griddlecakes (pancakes) from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook fit this criteria. So with a few messy adventures along the way, the three of us made blueberry pancakes.

Wash ½ cup of blueberries and set on paper towels or a cloth towel to drain.

Sift 1 cup of flour in a separate bowl. Mix in 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 tablespoons sugar, and ½ teaspoon of salt and set aside.

In another mixing bowl, stir together ½ – ¾ cup milk (you’ll add more if needed for the right consistency as you combine all the ingredients later,) 1 slightly beaten egg, and 2 tablespoons melted butter.

Add the flour mixture all at once to the wet ingredients. Add more milk, a little at time, to achieve the desired consistency.

Fold in ½ cup reserved blueberries. (I doubled the recipe and poured half the batter into a separate bowl and then added the berries to only one of the batters. This way we had plain pancakes for family members who preferred that over blueberry pancakes.)

Spray your griddle or skillet with cooking spray, or use enough vegetable oil to barely coat the bottom. Heat to a moderate heat. Two tablespoons of batter make a small pancake. Use a ¼ cup of batter for larger pancakes.

Cook the pancakes on one side until the top is full of bubbles and then turn with a spatula to brown the other side.

You can keep them in a 200-degree (Fahrenheit) oven so they stay warm until all the griddlecakes are cooked.

We actually served these with bacon for a fun brunch meal with the children. It was a big hit. Both children cleaned their plate and ate every bite of pancake! I can’t often say that about them. 😊

I think that perhaps another tablespoon of sugar would have enhanced the flavor of the blueberry pancakes. Perhaps another ¼ cup of berries—or a heaping ½ cup—wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Though it was a tasty meal, it seems I am always looking for ways to improve new dishes I try.

Making pancakes from scratch is nearly as easy as using a boxed mixture—and you probably have the ingredients in your pantry.

This is a good and easy recipe if you’d like to try it.

Sources

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

What Story Awaited Me in Gettysburg?

by Sandra Merville Hart

Something drew me yet again to Gettysburg. I had visited this battlefield before, but this time I knew there was a story waiting for me. I only had an inkling of an idea when I left my home that fall day—a Confederate soldier needs help from a Gettysburg seamstress. Not much to go on, is it? Sometimes novel ideas grow slowly and sometimes you know the whole story within an hour. A Rebel In My House swelled in my imagination as I explored Gettysburg.

My husband and I walked the battlefields. Ideas stirred when I found Tennessee troops with the brigade who began the fighting on the first day. Nothing solidified so I kept digging. I visited the museums. I discovered fascinating history at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at the Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum. Surely my story touched this place. Yet no ideas came. I trudged on.

I spent hours at the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center, Gettysburg Museum of History, Gettysburg Railroad Station, General Lee’s Headquarters Museum, and The David Wills House where President Lincoln stayed. I learned captivating facts at the Jennie Wade House, Shriver House Museum, and “The Women of Gettysburg Tour,” an evening walking tour.

Ideas strengthened. My husband and I walked the town’s streets around the “Diamond” or the town square where the women and children suffered through a nightmare. Then we spent another afternoon and evening at the battlefield.

Three Tennessee regiments fought the beginning battle on July 1st. They didn’t fight again until they joined in Pickett’s Charge.

The sun sank low on the horizon as I stood alone on Cemetery Ridge. The expansive field crossed by Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863, captured my imagination. Though the land is peaceful once more, it still tells a story. My imagination soared while the sun disappeared.

I had to tell what the townspeople endured. What if a Gettysburg woman fell in love with a Confederate soldier? What if they both made promises to loved ones? Some promises are impossible to keep …

I reluctantly left the ridge because I had a story to write.

Book Blurb:

When the cannons roar beside Sarah Hubbard’s home outside of Gettysburg, she despairs of escaping the war that’s come to Pennsylvania. A wounded Confederate soldier on her doorstep leaves her with a heart-wrenching decision.

Separated from his unit and with a bullet in his back, Jesse Mitchell needs help. He seeks refuge at a house beside Willoughby Run. His future lies in the hands of a woman whose sympathies lay with the North.

Jesse has promised his sister-in-law he’d bring his brother home from the war. Sarah has promised her sister that she’d stay clear of the enemy. Can the two keep their promises amid a war bent on tearing their country apart?

Amazon

In Sheep’s Clothing by Pegg Thomas

After her fiancé left years ago, Yarrow Fenn resigned herself to being a spinster. She loves her family, who take advantage of her generous nature. Her father had taught her to be a master weaver and spinner, a skill that enriches her greedy sister.

When the handsome bachelor Peter Maltby, a journeyman fuller, comes to town, no one believes Yarrow will capture his attention.

Both have secrets that plague them.

I loved this gentle historical romance! The struggles of the main characters tugged at my heart. Honest, with some unexpected twists. I also loved learning about a little-known law passed by the Crown in the colonies that placed great hardship on colonists.

This novella is a short, satisfying book that can be read in a few hours.   

I’ve read other books by this author and will look for more!

-Sandra Merville Hart

https://www.amazon.com/Sheeps-Clothing-Pegg-Thomas-ebook/dp/B08XPT7DGB/

Awaken My Heart by DiAnn Mills

Marianne Phillips is mortified by her wealthy father’s plan to force out those who had lived first in the Texas valley where he built his ranch. Her fear grows as she learns he will use weapons and his Virginia friends to remove the Mexicans from La Flor because his cattle need their land to graze.

Then Marianne is kidnapped in exchange for La Flor by members of the rebel band led by Armando Garcia, angering him. They acted without his knowledge. He insists on guarding Marianne himself, who is soon captivated by the man’s bravery. Yet there could be no future for these feelings for her father’s enemy, especially after he arranges for her to marry a man older than himself.

Innocent characters on both sides of the book’s conflict quickly snagged my sympathy. There is action and adventure throughout the novel with a love story that tugged at my heart.

This book was a page turner for me. I learned much about the struggles in the early history of Texas before it became a state. Recommended for historical romance readers.

I’ll look for more novels by this author!

-Review by Sandra Merville Hart

Christianbook.com