Draining Ohio’s Swamps

Today’s post is written by fellow author Bettie Boswell. Welcome to Historical Nibbles, Bettie!

 The stories in the anthology, From the Lake to the River, are all set in Ohio. Ohio is an Iroquois word for the beautiful river that outlines two sides of the state. Ohio also means ‘good morning’ in Japanese. When I designed the cover art for the book I was inspired by both the state symbol, incorporating that good morning sun with golden fields of grain, and a map featuring Lake Erie and the many rivers that cross the great state of Ohio.

My story, Fred’s Gift, is set near a fictional Northwest Ohio farm where many fields of golden grain are harvested every year. The story is contemporary, but before there could be any farming in Northwest Ohio’s Great Black Swamp, settlers had to change the land.

Some of the first settlers in nearby Firelands, Ohio, were people whose homes back east were destroyed by fire during the Revolutionary War. Many soldiers traversed the swamp during the war of 1812 with their horses bogging down in muddy places like Devil’s Hole Road, near Bowling Green, Ohio. They experienced the swampy conditions but also noticed the rich soil, so they returned after the war. They made corduroy roads by laying log after log on the ground to prevent wagons from sinking. Deep ditches were dug to drain the land. They laid drainage tiles under fields so water would drain into the ditches. Those ditches still exist today and prevent major flooding from covering the area.

-Bettie Boswell


Fred’s Gift is a short contemporary romance. When Dawn learns that her father Fred is dying, she hurries to his side full of guilt for neglecting him over the last year. The year has been an adjustment to widowhood and being a single mother. Fred’s parting gift of love and forgiveness may involve more than just an inheritance.


Bettie’s Inspiration

Fred’s Gift was inspired by my father, who did leave me a portion of his farm. My dad was a proud veteran of WW2 and an avid genealogist. His historical records and tales are providing inspiration for future stories. My husband and I met before my father retired. We are enjoying a long marriage and are currently loving having grandchildren, so this story is not biographical.

About Bettie:

Bettie Boswell is an author, illustrator, and composer for both Christian and children’s markets. She holds a B.S. in Church Music from Cincinnati Bible College and a Masters in Elementary Education from East Tennessee State University. She lives in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Her numerous musicals have been performed at schools, churches, and two community theater events. When she isn’t writing, drawing or composing, she keeps busy with her day job teaching elementary music in Sylvania, Ohio.



Cold Read by Sharyn Kopf

Part of From the Lake to the River: The Buckeye Christian Fiction Authors 2018 Anthology

Published by Mt. Zion Ridge Press

Stephie Graham begins to regret her decision to direct a play at the community theater when everything unravels. An unfortunate accident takes the female lead out of the play too close to opening night to find a replacement.

Stephie will have to play the role—but that may not be such a bad thing. After all, she will spend more time with Andy Tremont, the male lead who has captivated her since they met.

The small city theater even has its own resident ghost, a singer from the 1930s with a tragic story.

With a fresh, easy-to-read style, Kopf has woven a fun and enjoyable contemporary romance. It was also an insightful glimpse into the difficulties and joys of community theaters.

I will look for more by this author.

-Sandra Merville Hart



Bluing Recipe for Laundry

I’m always searching for interesting or little-known tidbits from our past. While reading about how folks laundered clothing in the 1800s, bluing was often mentioned.

White fabrics can become gray or yellow after washing. Adding bluing to the wash or rinse water gives a subtle blue hue to whites even as it makes whites appear whiter and cleaner. Bluing is part of the manufacturing process for many white fabrics.

Laundry detergents improved over time, but whites can still grow dingy with frequent washing. Even today, bluing is a better option for whitening because bleach weakens the fibers. Bluing is still available today.

Women made their own bluing in the 19th century.

One ounce of Prussian blue (dark blue pigment) and ½ ounce of oxalic acid (used to remove yellow or brown rust stains) are dissolved in 1 quart “of perfectly soft rain water.” Store in a corked bottle. Insert a quill into the cork to easily control pouring the bluing, as 1 to 2 tablespoons is enough for one tub of laundry.

Chinese blue was considered the best. In the 1870s, it cost 12 ½ cents per ounce. Oxalic acid cost 3 cents. The amount made by this recipe lasted a year for a mid-sized family.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Bluing for Laundry,” Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., 2018/07/29  https://www.marthastewart.com/270924/bluing-for-laundry.

“Bluing (fabric),” Wikipedia.com 2018/07/29  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluing_(fabric)

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

“Oxalic Acid,” Sunburst Chemicals, 2018/07/29 http://www.sunburstchemicals.com/product/oxalic-acid/.

“Prussian Blue,” Wikipedia.com, 2018/07/29 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prussian_blue.


From the Stage to the Page

Today’s post is written by fellow author and friend, Sharyn Kopf. Welcome to Historical Nibbles, Sharyn!

Two weeks before I moved to Bellefontaine, Ohio, in 2013, I saw a notice that the local theatre was holding auditions for Our Town. I couldn’t resist. I love being in a show. During the audition, I told the director I would be interested in a humorous part. She must have liked my interpretation because she cast me as the comedy relief, Mrs. Soames, and a star was born.

Ha! Not really,* but a story was. Because it was in rehearsing that play that I first stepped into the Holland Theatre, a unique structure built by Schine Enterprises in downtown Bellefontaine in 1931. The Schine family was responsible for constructing about 150 theatres in six states, but the Holland is the only one with a Dutch-style atmosphere.

Theatre architecture was at its peak in the 1920s, and many were built with an eye toward atmosphere, designed to resemble anything from an Italian piazza to a Grecian ruin to a Moorish courtyard. Theatre-goers would enjoy performances amidst Corinthian columns and loosely draped Roman statuettes with come-hither eyes. The majority of these theatres favored a Spanish or Italian fashion.

Which is why the Holland stands out with its 17th-century Dutch cityscape. If you’re not caught up in what’s on the stage, you can cast your gaze on almost life-sized timber-framed facades with softly lit windows next to two windmills that turn beneath a ceiling covered in twinkling stars.

The building screams, “Story!” and not just when you’re watching a play. I loved the historic charm from the moment I walked through one of the three sets of double doors at the entrance. But it was the romance oozing from the brick and wood and stone and dripping from the two-story red curtains that appealed to me most. Though much of the restoration has been done, it’s still an old theatre … an ideal setting for a love story and, perhaps, a haunting. All of which led me to create Stephie Graham, a lonely graphic designer who’s directing The Rainmaker at the Holland … and is distressed to find herself falling for her leading man, Andy Tremont.

But I had to bring a touch of the theatre’s history into it and did so by introducing Juniper Remington, a young girl who sang from her broken heart on the same stage 80 years before … and now may be a forlorn ghost trying to keep Stephie and Andy apart.

Or is she?

After all, the theatre is a place where magical things happen and happy endings bring the audience to its feet. And who doesn’t love being a part of that?!

-Sharyn Kopf

*Though I did win a Holland Windmill Productions Award for best supporting actress!


Sharyn’s bio:

Sharyn Kopf didn’t find her voice until she found a way to turn grief into hope. For her, that meant realizing it was okay to be sad about her singleness. In doing so, she was finally able to move past her grief and find hope in God.

It also meant writing about the heartaches and hopes in being an older single woman. She published her first novel, Spinstered, in 2014, and a companion nonfiction version titled Spinstered: Surviving Singleness After 40 in 2015. The sequel to the novel, Inconceived, released in September 2016 and, one year later, she finished the series with Altared. Her current project is a novel about a lonely girl with a knack for matchmaking.

Besides writing and speaking, Sharyn is a freelance ghostwriter, editor and marketing professional. In her spare time, she enjoys goofing off with her nieces and nephews, making—and eating!—the best fudge ever, taking long hikes through the woods, and playing the piano.

How is God Working in Your Life Today by Freddie Woods Wilson

My Mind, My Heart is for Optional

This journal is unique in that every page begins with the question “How is God working in your Life Today?”

A daily inspirational scripture verse is included on every page. The author leaves space to journal the highlights of what is happening in your life, allowing you to ponder God’s guidance, leading, and protection in the situations you face.

An excellent question to think about at the end of each day, this journal reminds us to watch for God’s answers to our prayers.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Meatless Tomato Soup Recipe

Tomatoes are among my favorite foods so I was happy to find a recipe for meatless tomato soup in an 1877 cookbook. The original cook was Mrs. D.C. Conkey of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I’ve learned to modify recipes for smaller portions so the ingredients were halved and made about 5 one-cup servings. Double the ingredients if feeding a larger family.

Peel and roughly chop two large tomatoes for a pint. This gave me about 1/3 to ½ cup more than strictly needed, but it worked out fine.

Stew the tomatoes in 2 cups of water on medium high heat until soft, about 25 minutes. Use a medium to large kettle.

Boil 2 cups of milk.

Lower the heat to medium. Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda. It begins to bubble immediately, reaching the kettle’s rim in seconds. Remove from heat before it boils over. Stir and return to the heat, allowing it to cook a minute or two. (I’d never used baking soda this way before and was amazed that it pureed the stewed tomatoes!)

Add the boiling milk and stir. This tones down the bubbling a bit.

Mrs. Conkey then directs us to salt, pepper, and butter “to taste, with a little rolled cracker.” Due to experiences with other recipes in this book, I took that to mean combine cracker with melted butter. I crumbled two squares of crackers and stirred in melted butter. This went into the lightly boiling soup. I added ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

The soup cooked on a gentle boil another 10 minutes.

I couldn’t believe the results—the stewed tomatoes were almost completely pureed!

The soup had a slight buttery flavor. In my opinion, there was twice as much milk as needed. For the same proportions, I’d use 1 cup of milk next time. Even with that, I enjoyed the light, refreshing soup.

And I learned a new trick! Who already knew about the baking soda trick?

I’d love to hear from you if you try it.

-Sandra Merville Hart


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



American Square Dancing


Today’s post is written by fellow author and friend, Rebecca Waters. Welcome back to Historical Nibbles, Rebecca!

 American square dancing has its roots in 16th century England and France. The “quadrille” was completed using intricate, memorized patterns. Many of the names of today’s square dance moves, such as allemande, promenade, and dos-a-dos reflect French influence.

American square dancing is linked with the settling of America and western expansion. Instead of memorizing dances, settlers opted for a leader to call out moves in sequence. Square dancing on wagon trains and in early settlements allowed men and women to engage in a socially acceptable activity. Some moves such as “take a little peek and trade the wave” or  “courtesy turn,” were considered flirtatious but safe ways to mingle with the opposite sex.

While some dances were set to music, certain groups considered the fiddle and other instruments tools of the devil. In this case, dance moves were prompted in rhythm and rhyme by a “caller.” These were known as patter calls.

Square dancing waned in the early 1900’s but made a comeback after World War II. The event surged after President Ronald Reagan named square dancing America’s official folk dance in 1982.

-Rebecca Waters


Courtesy Turn, a story about unexpectedly finding a second chance at love in a contemporary novella set in Cincinnati, Ohio, is one of nine stories in the newly released anthology, From the Lake to the River.


When Lori’s husband died of cancer, part of Lori died with him. It’s been 5 years now. Lori and her husband always enjoyed square dancing. Is that where she should start? Is it possible for Lori to find purpose and joy in her life or will she be forever dependent on her son and his family?





Courtesy Turn by Rebecca Williams Waters

Part of From the Lake to the River: The Buckeye Christian Fiction Authors 2018 Anthology

Published by Mt. Zion Ridge Press

This contemporary romance is a definite page-turner!

I really enjoyed the humor and honesty of a widow who wants to meet a special man and begin dating again.

Lori’s son, Ethan, tends to be bossy—as if she is the child and he is the parent. She’s ready for that to change.

She used to enjoy square dancing. Should she return to it? She’d made some great friends there.

While there, a cowboy catches her eye …

Lovable characters—including Lori’s cat—make this an enjoyable read. I’ve read other books by this author and will look for more.

Recommend this novella and the other stories in this collection!

-Sandra Merville Hart



Potato Salad

Today, I’m sharing my potato salad recipe with you. I love many different potato salads, but this is the one I usually take to picnics and family gatherings in the summer.


6 to 7 medium to large potatoes

3 eggs

1/2 medium onion

4 dill pickle spears


1 tablespoon mustard


It’s easy for peeled, chopped potatoes to get mushy while cooking. One trick in making potato salad that I learned as a teenager is to boil the potatoes whole.

Rinse the potatoes. Place them inside a large kettle and cover with cold water. Cook them on a medium to a medium high heat for a gentle, bubbling boil. Keep an eye on them. To test them for doneness, poke with fork. My medium-sized potatoes boiled gently for about 50 minutes. Larger potatoes require a little longer.

You’ll have to watch carefully and catch them before the peelings start curling open because that allows water inside. If that happens, the outer part will be mushy.

While the potatoes cook, boil 3 eggs on a medium high heat until hard-boiled, about 6-7 minutes. Replace the hot water with cold water as soon as you remove it from the heat. Set aside a few minutes to allow them to cool. Then peel and chop the eggs into a separate bowl.

Chop 4 dill pickle spears. I always add a tablespoon of pickle juice (or vinegar if you prefer) to the pickles to give it an extra burst of flavor. Set aside.

Peel a medium-sized onion. (I usually use Vidalia onions or white onions. Vidalia onions are a sweet onion while the white onions have a stronger flavor.) Dice ½ the onion and set aside.

When the potatoes are cooked, remove from the stove. Pour out the hot water and cover them in cold water for about five minutes. Then remove the potatoes from the water and let the skins dry for easier removal.

It’s a lot easier to peel the potatoes when cooked this way. Start cutting with a knife and then pull sections of peeling off. After peeling all the potatoes, chop them to the desired size and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add a little salt and mix gently.

Add eggs, onions, pickles, and a tablespoon of mustard.

From here on, I take after my grandmother who never followed a recipe. Add 3-4 heaping serving tablespoons of mayonnaise to the salad and begin mixing gently. If the salad looks dry, fold in another tablespoon and another until the potato salad has the desired consistency.

Then I start tasting. I immediately decided it needed another pickle spear. I chopped another spear and stirred it in, adding a spoon of pickle juice with it.

Another taste. Needed more salt. (Hint: add salt sparingly each time until it is salted to taste.)

You may decide it needs a bit more onion. If so, stir it in now. One thing I’ve discovered over the years—if I make it to my taste, my family and guests generally like it as well.

This recipe will serve about 8 people. Modify it for larger or smaller crowds.

Hope you enjoy this recipe.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Book Releasing Today!

My newest book releases today!

Nine Ohio authors have written novellas/short stories in Ohio settings in From the Lake to the River: Buckeye Christian Fiction Authors 2018 Anthology . What fun to be part of this anthology!

My novella in the collection, Surprised by Love, is set during the 1913 Great Miami River Flood in Troy, Ohio.


Here’s a blurb about my story:

Lottie’s feelings for an old school crush blossom again during the worst flood her town has endured in years.

Lottie shoulders the burden for her siblings after their mother’s death. Her seventeen-year-old brother’s disobedience troubles her, especially since she also cares for the boarders in their home. When the flooding river invades not only the town of Troy but also her home, Lottie and her family need to be rescued. 

Desperate circumstances throw Lottie and Joe, her schoolgirl crush, together. Can tragedy unite the couple to make her long-buried dream of winning his love come true?

And there are eight other stories in the anthology!

“Whether you like romance, young adult, women’s fiction, a touch of mystery or danger, some humor, some holiday cheer, a second chance at love, set in Ohio’s colorful history or the present–there’s something for nearly everyone in this collection.”-per the Editor at Mt. Zion Ridge Press, Publisher.

The collection From the Lake to the River is available on Amazon!