Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

by Sandra Merville Hart

Winner of the Newbery Medal

This simple children’s story gripped me from the first page.

The story opens with Anna’s mother giving birth to Caleb. Her mother died the next day and it took three days for Anna to love her brother.

Several years pass. Readers aren’t told how old the children are when her father places an ad for a mail-order bride. Sarah writes that she will come for one month … just to try it.

On the prairie, Anna and Caleb are desperate for a mother. Will she stay?

I love the characters in this story. It drew me in so that I wanted to keep reading. The story is told entirely from Anna’s perspective.

Another thing I loved is how children will read it on one level and adults will see another level of meaning.

Recommend for elementary and middle grade readers!

Southern Lady, Yankee Spy by Elizabeth R. Varon

by Sandra Merville Hart

The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew,

A Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy

I discovered this book while researching to write my “Spies of the Civil War” series. The second and third book in my series are set in Richmond, Virginia, in 1862. I wanted to learn more about Richmond’s most famous Union spy, Elizabeth Van Lew.

The author of this biography gives her childhood background and a bit of her family history as well yet the main focus is the Civil War years.

Plenty of important historical events connected with war happened in Richmond. Elizabeth wasn’t the only Union supporter—called Unionists—during the war. Others worked as spies for the North. We know the most about the activities of Elizabeth Van Lew.

A well-written and compassionate biography of Elizabeth’s life.  

Irish Brown Bread

Welcome to friend and fellow author, Cindy Thomson. She has written Irish historical novels and nonfiction Irish books. I read her latest book, Celtic Wanderings, and loved this devotional book! She is sharing a recipe for Brown Bread. Welcome to Historical Nibbles, Cindy!

by Cindy Thomson

I have a fascination with the history of Ireland and the Celtic nations. My latest book, Celtic Wanderings, is inspired by the early Celtic Christians. It’s a devotional that I hope will guide readers along that wandering path we all must traverse in life. My first published novel, Brigid of Ireland, is my interpretation of the early life of one of Ireland’s patron saints (along with Patrick and Columba).

At one of my first appearances at a book club, the hostess had attempted to make food pertaining to the novel. She said she found that challenging. After all, we are talking about the 5th century! Many people in Ireland celebrate St. Brigid’s Day by making brown bread, so I think that’s a good choice. They ate bread back then as they do now, with lots of butter (Kerrygold)! Add a cuppa of strong Barry, Lyon’s, or Bewley’s tea and that’s about as Irish as it gets!

Irish Brown Bread

1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour

½ Tbsp. baking soda

1 tsp. kosher salt

¾ cup wholemeal flour (you can use whole wheat or look for the authentic stuff online)

½ cup rolled oats

¼ cup steel cut oats

2 ¼ cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease 8-by-4-inch loaf pan.

Sift all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt.

Add remaining dry ingredients and mix with pastry cutter or with hands.

Add buttermilk and mix with hands but try not to overwork the dough or it may become tough.

Pour into loaf pan and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon rolled oats.

Place in oven, bake for 20 minutes, rotate and bake 20 more minutes.

Allow bread to cool before slicing. Keep remaining bread refrigerated.

About Cindy Thomson

Known for the inspirational Celtic theme employed in most of her books, Cindy Thomson is the author of six novels and five non-fiction books. A genealogy enthusiast, she writes from her home in Ohio where she lives with her husband Tom near their three grown sons and their families. Visit her online at

Celtic Wanderings: Daily inspiration from ancient Celtic voices.

Inspired by stories of ancient Celtic saints, this devotional will guide you and inspire you along the often winding path of life. Structured to be flexible to fit the natural flow of your day or evening, offering both challenge and wisdom, this devotional makes a great gift for others and for yourself.

Purchase her books!


by Sandra Merville Hart

A friend of mine spent a long weekend in the quaint Michigan town of Frankenmuth. She and her husband had such a fun time exploring, shopping, and eating delicious meals that we planned a short vacation getaway.

My husband and I went with family for a long weekend. It’s a beautiful German village. If you stay in the middle of town as we did, you’ll be within easy walking distance of most shops and restaurants because the main part of the village is about a mile long.

Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland will put you in the mood for Christmas no matter what time of year you visit! The world’s largest Christmas store is packed with unique items, decorations, and ornaments—all beautifully arranged. It even has a snack bar. My husband found a Christmas gift for me and shooed me away to another end of the vast store the size of 1 ½ football fields. I didn’t see the gift yet but I hope it’s from one particular display. 😊

The river was too high for us to take a riverboat cruise on the Bavarian Belle. Instead, we spent an enjoyable afternoon strolling the cobblestone paths at Frankenmuth River Place, making some fun purchases, and eating ice cream.

We ate at several restaurants and liked all of them. The Bavarian Inn Restaurant stands out for me. Two people ordered the fried chicken that they’re rightly famous for and I ordered a new German dish. Another restaurant I particularly liked was Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth. The fine dining restaurant had a long wait so we ate at the cafeteria style one on the lower level—a delicious choice for lunch.

If you want to try your hand at pretzel making, reserve a spot weeks ahead. Indoor waterparks and ziplining are other family fun adventures to include in your visit.

All in all, it’s a great place for a fun family weekend.


“Fun Things to Do in Little Bavaria,” Frankenmuth Michigan’s Little Bavaria, 2021/07/26

Sarah’s Choice by Pegg Thomas

by Sandra Merville Hart

Forts of Refuge Series

Book One

Wow! This story gripped me from the first page.

Sarah Feight’s life on the 1763 Pennsylvania frontier felt like paradise.  She lives with her husband David in their wilderness clearing near his two brothers and their families. One tragic, brutal night changes everything.

Leith McCully, a friend of the Feight brothers, rescues Sarah and takes her to Fort Pitt where many settlers have sought refuge from the Ottawa, Chippewa, and other tribes.

Believable characters touched my heart with their struggles. These are characters I learned to love and hope to see more of in future books in the series.

Well-written. Heart-wrenching. Action-packed. Steeped in historical events. Full of twists and turns I didn’t anticipate. I couldn’t put it down!

I will look for more books by this author. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

The Grace Impact by Nancy Kay Grace

by Sandra Merville Hart

A Devotional

What a great book on the topic of God’s grace!

This book is divided into four sections about abounding grace, sufficient grace, the omnipresence of God, and abundant grace.

Each devotion begins with scripture and ends with thought-provoking questions. Suggested scriptures for further reading are also included.

I loved the way the author uses her own experiences and those of others to illustrate grace.

Thirty days of devotions can be read in less than ten minutes for personal reflections. The book would also be great for a group study.

The author has been captivated by God’s grace for years. Not only is “Grace” her last name, the name “Nancy” in Hebrew means “grace” so it must have seemed almost inevitable that she’d ponder the topic.

An easy-to-read and thought-provoking devotional. Recommend!



Generational Pie Crust Recipe

Cindy Ervin Huff, fellow author in “The Cowboys,” shares a family recipe that’s been passed down for generations. She also has a new historical romance book release that I loved! Welcome back to Historical Nibbles, Cindy!

by Cindy Ervin Huff

This recipe has been in my husband’s family for generations. It makes four crusts or several tarts.

Back in the day this recipe was created, the perfect pie crust was the envy of every homemaker. Pies were more often made than cakes. Like the little girls in my historical romance Rescuing Her Heart, they learned to make pies at an early age. Even I remember having tiny pans as a child and my mother helping me make a pie.

It was this recipe from my mother-in-law’s family that made my flaky, delicious crusts something to be proud of. I imagine my heroine Delilah James in Rescuing Her Heart used a similar recipe  when baking pies for her bakery.  

Bakers often kept recipes in their heads so no one could steal them. They measured by sight … a pinch of this, a handful of that.

A cup was not always the same depending on the tea cup one used. Standard measuring cups were slow to appear in every homemaker’s kitchen in the 1800s. Some recipes or receipts as they were often called only listed ingredients, like this one. Others gave detailed directions. Note there is no temperature listed either. Women learned from their mothers or grandmothers how to shape the dough and its various uses and how hot the oven needed to be.

This dough is good for fried pies too. Modern stoves with consistent temperatures made successful pie crusts so much easier.

Foolproof Pie Crust

Mix together in a bowl with a fork:

4 cups flour

1 ¾ cups vegetable shortening (Crisco, or Margarine, older recipes used Lard)

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

In a second bowl beat:

1 tablespoon vinegar (I used apple cider)

1 egg

½ cup water

Combine and stir until moist.

My mother admired my pie crusts so much my husband made her plaque for her kitchen with the recipe on it!

About Cindy

Cindy Ervin Huff is an Award-winning author of Historical and Contemporary Romance. She loves infusing hope into her stories of broken people. She’s addicted to reading and chocolate. Her idea of a vacation is visiting historical sites and an ideal date with her hubby of almost fifty years would be live theater.

Visit her at her blog.

Rescuing Her Heart

As her husband’s evil deeds haunt a mail-order bride from the grave, can she learn to trust again and open her heart to true love? Jed has his own nightmares from a POW camp and understands Delilah better than she knows herself. Can two broken people form a forever bond?

First Modern Olympics Medals

by Sandra Merville Hart

The first modern Olympic games were held in Athens, Greece, on April 6 – April 15, 1896. The Games of the I Olympiad, as they were called, had an Opening Ceremony and a Closing Ceremony.

The competition began on April 6th. American James Connolly competed in the first event only hours after arriving in Athens. What is now known as the triple jump was then called “the hop, step, and jump,” and it was the first event. His jump was 44 feet 11 ¾ inches—he won first place.

Even more important, James Connolly became the first Olympic champion in the 1896 games—and the first in 1,527 years.

We have grown accustomed to watching our Olympic winners receive medals for their achievement. A gold medal is awarded to the first-place winner, a silver medal goes to second place, and a bronze medal goes to third place.

These weren’t the awards in 1896.

Firstly, only the top two winners received an award. Those coming in third received nothing.

Secondly, first and second place both received three items. Gold medals weren’t awarded in 1896. A silver medal was awarded to first place winners along with an olive branch and a diploma. A bronze/copper medal was given to second place winners. They also received a diploma but instead of an olive branch they were given a laurel branch.

These early medals are rare. A first-place medal from the Games of the I Olympiad held in Athens in 1896 was up for auction in July of 2021. It sold for over $180,000!


“1896 Summer Olympics,” Wikipedia, 2021/07/23

“About the Games,” Olympic Channel Services, 2021/07/25 Editors. “10 Things You May not Know about the First Modern Olympics,” A&E Television Networks, 2021/07/23

“Rare Medal from First Modern Olympics Fetches over $180,000,” AP News, 2021/07/23

Facing the Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti

by Sandra Merville Hart

A page turner!

Mara Jacobs is hanging on by a thread. Trying to raise three children on her own while Liam, her husband, is in Africa on a four-year mission has stretched her to the breaking point. He’s digging wells to provide clean, healthy drinking water to villages where none was available while she struggles to keep her head above water.

He has offered to come home several times, especially when their son was arrested. Mara assured him that she was capable of handling the situation on her own.

Only she wasn’t. Then tragedy strikes.

The author uses deep point of view in a story told entirely from the main character’s perspective. It allows readers to experience her emotions, her thoughts, and her grief.

This multi-layered story was difficult to read. The first third of it was especially hard to get through—very emotional, negative.

I’m glad I stuck with it because the story gripped me soon after. I couldn’t put it down. Lots of surprising twists and turns snagged my interest and didn’t let go.

This isn’t the first novel I’ve read by this talented author. I will look for more. Recommend!

Celtic Wanderings by Cindy Thomson

by Sandra Merville Hart

A 40-Day Devotional

Daily inspiration from ancient Celtic voices.

I have read other books by Cindy Thomson so I was eager to buy her newest release. It did not disappoint!

This book isn’t like other devotionals I’ve read. All devotions begin with a scripture reference and personal thoughts on the scripture. Each ends with a challenge and a prayer.

What fascinated me was how the author wove ancient Celtic history into each devotion. I’m a Christian who loves history and it was a joy to read a devotional that combined both of these loves.

Devotions are divided into sections, such as Travel, Gather, and Remember.

Each devotion took about five minutes to read, so it’s great for busy readers.

Thought-provoking. Inspiring. Educational.

I loved it!