The Problem with Teacups

My blog is called “Historical Nibbles” for the historical recipes shared on Mondays and the “A Peek into Our Past” historical articles shared on Thursdays. My desire is to bring to light little-known facts from American history so this knowledge our ancestors attained will not be forgotten.

I love to try old recipes from over a century ago, but these can be difficult to follow. Ingredient measurements are one of the challenges.

For instance, recipes from an 1877 cookbook can call for a tea-cup of raisins, a small half cup of butter, three cups of flour, or one and a half tea-cups of sugar.

The same recipe may call for one cup of brown sugar and a half-pint of molasses. A half-pint in modern measurements is one cup. If one cup was the same as a half-pint for the 1877 cook, why didn’t she say, “one cup of brown sugar, one cup of molasses” when writing the recipe?

Another cook wrote that “a tumbler and a half of sliced citron may be added.” How big was a tumbler in 1877? Did tumblers vary in size?

Another recipe calls for one cup of sugar and two small cups of flour. Is a “small cup” different from a tea-cup? Was “one cup” perhaps 12 ounces and the “small cup” 8 ounces?

It’s a guessing game. Sometimes I guess wrong and have to prepare the recipe a second time.

I went shopping for one last gift on Christmas weekend and found a Festive Tree Collection of 3 measuring cups at Macy’s. My thoughts immediately flew to the old recipes calling for a “small tea-cup” and “half tea-cups.”

The collection’s historic flair appealed to me and, on a whim, I bought a Christmas gift for myself. You may see a photo now and then using these measuring cups as I struggle to read the minds of historic cooks!

-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery, Applewood Books, 1877.



A Rebel in My House Receives 2018 Illumination Silver Award!

A Rebel in My House, my Civil War romance set during the historic Battle of Gettysburg, has received 2018 Illumination Silver Award in the Inspirational/ Romance Fiction category!

The Illumination Awards “are designed to honor and bring increased recognition to the year’s best new titles written and published with a Christian worldview.” Click here to see the entire list of gold, silver and bronze winners. So thrilled that my novel is included with those from such talented authors!


Great Miami Hurricane of 1926

New residents moved to Miami, Florida, in the 1920s. The newcomers knew little about the hurricane dangers to a beach-side city.  Many were drawn to Miami by a real-estate boom that collapsed. Citizens lost their homes as businesses closed their doors.

A Weather Bureau Office had been established in Miami under the leadership of Richard Gray since 1911.

Ships first reported a storm in the central tropical Atlantic to the Weather Bureau on September 11, 1926. During this time period, storm warnings came from Washington DC. Storm warnings—one step below hurricane—were issued at noon on September 17th.

Gray raised hurricane warnings at 11 pm that night. Few people owned a radio to hear the broadcasted message. Forceful winds drove ocean waves onto the shore. A seven-year-old girl remembered seeing the ocean’s waves in her backyard.

The sixty-mile wide hurricane came ashore at 2 am and lashed at the city of Miami until 6 am. Folks, thinking that the storm had passed, came out of their homes to inspect the damage. Some staying on Miami Beach and barrier islands packed up their cars and crossed bridges to the mainland.

Gray, horrified, realized new residents didn’t understand they were in the eye of the storm. He ran onto the crowded streets, shouting warnings that the worst was yet to come.

The lull lasted only about 35 minutes. Many of the approximately 100 Miami victims, killed by flying debris or drowning, were those who came outside in the eye.

Foster Stearns witnessed waves wash over the new Venetian Causeway. The ocean washed over a car speeding back to the mainland. Instantly the car and its passengers were lost.

The hurricane swept inland to Lake Okeechobee, causing a levee to give way near Moore Haven, a town of 900 on the lake’s shore. The actual number of drowning victims in Moore Haven is unknown, though it may be as many as 300. The town was under water for 8 weeks.

The U.S. Weather Bureau in Miami described the hurricane as “probably the most destructive hurricane to strike the United States.”

-Sandra Merville Hart


Cribb, Betsy and Phillips, Lauren. “10 Most Disastrous Hurricanes in U.S. History, Coastal Living, 2018/01/07

“Great Miami Hurricane of 1926,” National Weather Service, 2018/01/07

McIver, Stuart. “1926 Miami: The Blow that Broke the Boom,” Sun-Sentinel, 2018/01/07

Murder Mezzo Forte by Donn Taylor

Book 2 in the Preston Barclay series.

Professor Preston Barclay, “Press” to his friends, has built a reputation for solving a murder along with his fellow professor, Mara Thorn. When the pair find the dead body of another professor following a trustee/faculty reception, they both want to avoid the appearance of investigating the case.

Yet finding the dead woman plunges them into the middle of a police investigation. Both appear to be suspects in the murder. Past history with one of the police officers comes back to haunt Press.

Danger lurks not only for Press and Mara, but also for anyone they question.

Filled with twists and turns, this suspenseful romance kept me turning pages.

The novel refers to events that happened in Book 1, Murder in Disguise. It may be helpful to read that novel first.

The characters are interesting and believable. I will look for more novels by this author

-Sandra Merville Hart

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

Blackberry Blanc-Mange Recipe from 1877

I found a recipe for Raspberry Blanc-Mange in an 1877 cookbook that had been submitted by Mrs. J.P. Rea of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mrs. Rea suggested that other fruit could be substituted for raspberries. Since I had fresh blackberries in the fridge, I used blackberries.

Blancmange is a new dessert to me. I’d never made or eaten it. This sweet dessert is usually made with milk and sugar. Cornstarch, gelatin, and Irish moss—a seaweed found near Ireland—are used to thicken the blancmange.

The dessert is traditionally white, but this fruity recipe is a rich burgundy color.

As with most of the recipes in the 1877 cookbook, there is a lot of guesswork. It didn’t suggest how much fruit to “stew” in the first step.

I washed 12 ounces (1 ½ cups) of fresh blackberries and put them in a medium saucepan. I added a cup of water, which ended up being a good amount for this amount of fruit.

These cooked on a medium heat. After they began a slow boil, I cooked them around 8 – 10 minutes, long enough to extract the flavorful juices from the blackberries.

Strain the fruit. Discard the blackberries and return the juice to the pan. There will be a little more than the amount of water added in the beginning.

In a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch per pint of juice. Mine made a little over a cup, so I used 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. To this add twice the amount of water—2 tablespoons of water for mine. Stir and set aside.

Mrs. Rea suggested sweetening the juice to taste. Having no idea how sweet blancmange is, I stirred in ¼ cup of sugar. When this mixture begins to boil on a medium heat, drizzle in the reserved cornstarch mixture. It thickens immediately.

Whisk constantly while it continues to boil for another minute or two. Remove from heat.

Rinse molds in cold water and add the blancmange. Chill for at least 2 hours to allow the dessert to set.

Twelve ounces of blackberries made 2 servings. Adjust the quantities for the number of servings desired.

Turn the mold onto a serving plate. Mrs. Rea suggesting eating it with cream and sugar. I liked it plain.

Though it didn’t turn out overly sweet, I will reduce the amount of sugar next time to 2 tablespoons for 2 servings.

I loved the rich color of the blancmange. I like blackberries and the refreshing taste took me back to summer days of eating cobblers and jams. I will reduce the amount of sugar next time to 2 tablespoons for 2 servings.

I’d love to hear if you try this recipe with other fruits.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Blankmange,” Wikipedia, 2018/01/13

Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.




Great White Hurricane of 1888

Heavy snow and wind gusts as high as 85 miles per hour brought whiteout conditions to New York City at midnight on Sunday, March 11, 1888.

Snow drifts had reached the second story of buildings in some areas, yet folks in that city braved the snow on Monday morning to get to work. Many of the elevated trains were blocked by snow drifts, stranding about 15,000 people.

Most city residents who made it to work or school left early—then had a treacherous journey back home.

Railroads and streetcars shut down. Roads were impassible. Train passengers were stuck for days. Two hundred ships wrecked because of the storm.

Telegraph wires fell. Gas lines and water lines—all above-ground—froze.

The storms historic three-day snowfall reached 55 inches in Troy, New York. Snow and high winds affected all those living along the Atlantic coast. About 25% of Americans lived from Washington D.C. to Maine, the area affected by the storm.

Stores ran out of fresh meat, canned meat, and salt meat. Scarce food was sometimes sold to the highest bidder, not to loyal regular customers.

Over 400 people died as a result of this Great White Hurricane—200 were in New York City.

Mark Twain, the beloved author, was stranded at a New York hotel. P.T. Barnum, also stuck at a hotel, entertained other folks likewise stranded at Madison Square Gardens.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources Staff. “Major Blizzards in U.S. History,”, 2018/01/07 Staff. “March 11, 1888: Great Blizzard of ’88 hits East Coast,”, 2018/01/07

“Surprising Stories: The Great White Hurricane of 1888,” New England Historical Society, 2018/01/07



Last Stop, Cordelia by Lisa Carter

The Rails to Love Romance Collection

 The action begins with the first paragraph!

Neil MacBride risks his life to save Cordelia Cochrane, but is she grateful? No, the feisty reporter actually has the nerve to tell Neil that he should have let her remain in danger—she’d get a better newspaper story.

Being out in the middle of the Wyoming Territory with a group of former Civil War soldiers turned rail workers, Cordelia grudgingly decides to accept Neil’s help. She only cares about furthering her career.

Neil is ambitious, too. The Union Pacific worker is determined to lead his team, who are laying tracks daily. He’s been without family for a long time yet there is something about Cordelia that captivates him.

I loved this novella. I fell in love with Neil before Cordelia did!

The dialogue in the story is especially good. The couple have meaningful conversations from the beginning. The secondary characters, hardened by war experiences, are also lovable and believable.

Definitely recommend this author.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Mulligan Stew Recipe


One of my favorite meals that my grandmother made was Mulligan stew. She had no patience to teach anyone how to make it. Fortunately, my brother also liked it. He observed her preparations for the stew and then wrote them down.

3 pounds stew beef

6 to 8 medium-to-large potatoes

2 medium onions, chopped

1 cup tomato catsup

3 to 4 tablespoons chili powder

Salt to taste

Butchers often slice beef into two-inch square chunks. That’s too large for a spoon and gave me lots of trouble as a child eating this in my soup.

One thing I do (that my grandmother didn’t) is cut the stew beef into bite-sized portions before cooking.

Rinse the meat and add to a large pot. Cover with cold water. Add a teaspoon of salt or season to taste. Cook over medium heat until almost done, about 45 minutes.

I use 8 potatoes because I love them in this stew. Peel and cut potatoes into spoon-sized portions.

When the meat is almost done, add potatoes and onions. Stir in a cup of catsup. If you add too much, the stew has a sweet taste. (You may prefer that taste. I modify recipes all the time. I’d suggest trying this amount of catsup the first time and see what you think.)

Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of chili powder. I used closer to 4 tablespoons in mine. Stir well.

Continue cooking until the potatoes are tender.

If you cook this in a crock pot, add all ingredients at the beginning and stir well.

I served the stew with rolls.  My grandmother served them with bread. Some people prefer crackers.

My brother asked me to make this stew on a recent visit. He said it was seasoned perfectly. High praise from someone who remembers my grandmother’s stew!

I’d love to hear if you try this recipe. Enjoy!

-Sandra Merville Hart



Civil War General Lee Sends a Frightening Message


Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his family lived in the executive mansion in Richmond, Virginia. Citizens grew accustomed to hearing artillery fire in nearby Petersburg after months of fighting. With General Robert E. Lee in command, they felt safe.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis didn’t feel quite as secure. By the morning of April 2, 1865, he had already sent his family away from the city.

Still, when Davis received a message during church services on Sunday morning, April 2, color drained from his face. He immediately exited the church, leaving the congregation to wonder what momentous event had occurred to warrant his haste.

The telegram was from General Lee. He advised Davis to leave Richmond that night.

Davis issued orders to evacuate the Confederate government, though citizens were not given notice for hours. However, the sight of official documents burning in front of government buildings warned of terrible events.

Citizens learned that the government was evacuating at 4 pm. Officials and other prominent citizens abandoned the city rapidly. They exited by train. They rode out on horseback, carts, and carriages. They boarded canal barges and boats to avoid the Union soldiers.

Davis arranged to leave by train at 8:30 pm yet continued to hope it wouldn’t be necessary. He and three cabinet members delayed leaving until 11 pm. Confederate soldiers crossed the river on pontoon boats.

Chaos reigned in Richmond. City officials ordered men to destroy kegs and bottles of liquor from saloons and warehouses. They poured them into street drains, attracting crowds. Folks scooped up whiskey in boots and hats to gulp it down.

Richmond’s military commander, Lieutenant General Richard Ewell, stayed behind with a few soldiers to burn the city’s supplies of cotton, tobacco, and food. These were set afire inside buildings with the fire department nearby to keep it under control.

The stocks of meat, coffee, and other staples enraged starving citizens. They grabbed the food and then began looting stores. Fires blazed out of control. Arsenals on ships exploded.

Fires still burned the next morning when Union cavalry arrived.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Reaction to the Fall of Richmond,” Civil War Trust, 2017/10/29


The Depot Bride by Amanda Cabot

The Rails to Love Romance Collection

Eugenia Bell is more interested in photography than in Chauncey Keaton, the man her rich and powerful father wants her to marry. When her father invites Mason Farling to Cheyenne to write a book commemorating the new depot that will include Eugenia’s photographs, she is thrilled.

Mason appreciates the ingenuity in Eugenia’s photographs immediately and he’s excited for the opportunity to work with the talented beauty.

Mason captures Eugenia’s attention in a way that Chauncey never did.

The characters are likeable and believable.

This historical romance novella is a quick read yet it grabbed my attention.

Recommend! Will look for more by this author.

-Sandra Merville Hart