Children’s Books That Provide Early Halloween Chills, Thrills: By Marilyn Ostermiller

If ghostly capers and heart-stopping high jinks get your juices flowing, here’s a selection of Middle Grade books with nail-biting suspense, chatty ghosts and other, not so sociable apparitions.
Tunnel of Bones, second book in Victoria Schwab’s “City of Ghosts” series.

Tunnel of Bones (City of Ghosts #2) (2)

The plot: Ever since Cassidy Blake almost drowned, she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead . . . and enter the spirit world. When her parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, Cass accidentally awakens a frightening young boy ghost who roams the catacombs under Paris’ streets.

What’s to Like: It’s one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read, but I couldn’t stop reading.

To Learn More: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43411972-tunnel-of-bones

The Mystery of Hollow Inn, first of the Samantha Wolf Mysteries, by Tara Ellis

The Mystery Of Hollow Inn (Samantha Wolf Mysteries Book 1)

The plot: When 12-year-old Samantha arrives in the mountains of Montana, with her best friend, for a summer vacation, they uncover a villainous scheme at Hollow Inn to force Sam’s aunt and uncle out of business.

What’s to Like: It’s set in a mountain retreat so remote there’s no Wi-Fi or cell phone reception. The girls ignore the rules, and suffer the consequences, as they take readers on a fast-paced, contemporary adventure.

Learn More: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21897748-the-mystery-of-hollow-inn

Lilac Skully and the Halloween Moon, third book in  Amy Cesari’s “Supernatural Adventures of Lilac Skully,” series.          Lilac Skully and the Halloween Moon

The Plot: Lilac lives in a haunted mansion with a coterie of ghosts and goblins. Lilac longs for the one normal thing she has never experienced, to go trick-or-treating on Halloween. Where better to experience it than at the Seaside Fun Park with friends, or so she thought until some really scary villains seem intent on making her vanish forever. 

What’s to Like: It’s a tale of a young girl, who’s led such a sheltered life she’s never been introduced to sweets, not even candy corn until now.

Learn More: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42105981-lilac-skully-and-the-halloween-moon

 

Marilyn OstermillerMarilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who enjoys sharing her favorite reads.

 

 

 

Marilyn Ostermiller Presents: Recipes That Stood the Test of Time Part 2.

When my Great Grandma Caroline learned to bake as a child in Denmark during the 1860s, her specialty was Danish Cookies. She’d grab a couple handfuls of sugar, add heaping scoops of lard, an egg and cream it all together with a wooden spoon, before she tossed in a several handfuls of flour, pinches of baking powder, cream of tartar, salt and a few drops of vanilla.

I never met Great Grandma Caroline — she passed away before I was born — but every December, I roll her sweet, rich dough into balls the size of shooter marbles for a Christmas Eve treat.

I love following in her culinary footsteps, something I couldn’t do without my aunt’s foresight.
Aunt Helen sat down with Great Grandma and a set of measuring cups and spoons, pen and paper. When Caroline grabbed just enough lard, Helen asked her put it in a measuring cup. She repeated that with each ingredient to capture the recipe for posterity.

***
Danish Cookies
1 cup granulated sugar    2 cups flour                1 cup butter            1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg                1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla            1/2 tsp. salt    

Cream sugar and butter. Add egg and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients. Chill the dough for about 30 minutes. Roll out the dough into small balls, flatten with a fork and sprinkle with nonpareils. Bake at 350 degrees 10-15 minutes.

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Handing down favored family recipes is a time-honored tradition around the world. Some families gather every Sunday night to feast on Nonna’s tomato sauce and meatballs. For other families, a bowl of Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup is guaranteed to chase away a cold or sore throat. And, in another time-honored tradition, some cooks add a different ingredient or leave out one when someone asks for their recipe. I substitute butter for lard, when I make Great Grandma’s cookies.

Another factor that brought more recipes into our homes over the years was the popularity of packaged foods imprinted with a recipe on the back of the box.

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“The Back of the Box Gourmet,” written by Michael McLaughlin, is a compendium of dozens of recipes from packaged foods, ranging from “Lipton California Onion Dip” to the “Classic Green Bean Bake,” starring Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup. It’s a recipe I’m quite familiar with because my husband gets nostalgic for it every year around Thanksgiving. I bought that cookbook years ago because it has page after page of favorite foods from my childhood. My all-time favorite is the recipe on the back of Marshmallow Fluff jars for “Never-Fail Fudge.” https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1933069.Back_of_the_Box_Gourmet. How sweet it is!

What “Back of the Box” recipes are your favorite?

Marilyn Ostermiller
Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who delights in cooking, baking and sharing recipes.

Sandwiches That Stood the Test of Time, by Marilyn Ostermiller.

Here’s another post in my ongoing series about the various aspects and methods of conducting historical research when we write. This one, from my friend and frequent contributor to this blog, MARILYN OSTERMILLER, has a wonderfully unique twist: it’s about sandwiches of yesteryear.

“The greatest thing since sliced bread” is a saying that doesn’t make much sense these days, when sliced bread is in every supermarket. But, in the 1920s it marked a turning point in the average kitchen when a machine was invented that could slice and wrap bread. It meant children could safely make their own sandwiches. There was no longer any concern they would cut themselves trying to slice a whole loaf of bread with a sharp knife for the newly popular peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

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Another classic sandwich introduced in1920s is The Hot Brown, a toasted, open-face turkey sandwich with bacon, tomato and a delicate cheesy cream sauce. In the 1920s, the Brown Hotel  in Louisville, Ky. often drew crowds of more than 1,000 people, who kicked up their heels dancing until dawn, then wandered into the restaurant for something to eat. The chef set out to create something new to tickle their taste buds.

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Here’s the recipe https://www.brownhotel.com/dining/hot-brown

It remains popular: The Food Network’s show, Throwdown featured the Hot Brown as a food challenge for Bobby Flay. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJben7ZTHh8

The Philadelphia Cheese Steak, made its debut in the 1930s. The way the story goes, an Italian hot dog vendor in South Philly got tired of grilling hot dogs every day, so he cooked up some chopped meat, put it on  an Italian roll, dressed it with onions. In the 1940s, melted cheese was added to change it up.  https://www.patskingofsteaks.com/

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If you want to make it yourself, here’s how: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/philly-steak-sandwiches-recipe-1941027

Lobster Rolls also can be traced to that era. A Milford, Ct. restaurant named Perry’s served the first documented lobster roll in 1929. Despite this, Maine also claims bragging rights to the origin of the  lobster roll.

lobster roll sandwich

New England’s eateries still sell lots of lobster rolls, but their recipes are different. Order one in Maine, and you’re likely to get chunks of lobster meat soaked in melted butter served in a hot dog bun. However, in some parts of New England, lobster rolls are served cold, the chunks of lobster mixed with celery, lemon and mayonnaise. https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/massachusetts/articles/a-brief-history-of-the-lobster-roll/

These classic sandwiches are vastly different, but each has a loyal following passed down from generation to generation.

Next: This is the first of a two-part discussion on Classic Foods. The next installment will feature home made treats. Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who delights in cooking, baking and sharing recipes.

Darlene here: I don’t know about you, but a Lobster Roll sure would taste good right about now. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SANDWICH FROM CHILDHOOD?

Historical Fiction: The Devil Is In the Details by Marilyn Ostermiller

Earlier this month Marilyn Ostermiller gave us a wonderful post with some tips on how she conducts research when writing historical fiction.  Here she is with part two of that process:

THE GREAT ALONE, and WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, two of 2018’s most popular historical novels, take readers back in time to 1974 and the 1950s, respectively.

The characters in historical fiction can be imaginary, but the world they inhabit must be based on the reality of a particular time and place.“The devil is in the details” is an appropriate idiom to describe this writing process.

Writers who carry it off, research every aspect of when and where the story takes place, from dialect to popular foods and the endless minutia of daily living.

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Author Kristin Hannah was well-acquainted with Alaska’s wilderness, before she wrote THE GREAT ALONE, which received the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction of 2018. She tells the story of a Vietnam veteran, who returns home emotionally unstable, a violent threat to his wife and daughter. Hannah knew the area from her childhood. Her parents went to Alaska in the 1970s for adventure, fell in love with the state and started a business there. kristenhannah.com

 

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Likewise, Delia Owens set WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING where she grew up, the rural South during the 1950s. Her main character is an illiterate 10-year-old girl, who must fend for herself in the North Carolina marshes after her mother, and then her father, abandon her. Owens also drew on her experiences as a wildlife scientist, in Africa, and the U.S. deliaowens.com

 

Authors who write historical fiction don’t need to rely on personal experience, but are more likely to tell an engaging story if they set it in interesting times. That might explain all the action- packed, emotionally charged novels set during times of social upheaval, such as war. World-building for them begins with maps, history books, news accounts and such memorabilia as personal letters, scrapbooks, matchbooks, diaries and old photos.

A photo that guided me through the first chapter of a children’s book I’m writing helped me visualize what it would have been like, during the Great Depression, to be caught in a bank panic, desperate to worm your way through a jam-packed crowd to lay claim to your life savings. A black and white photo, that captured the intensity of the moment, showed dozens of people,  jostling together, all intent on surging past a guard into the bank.    bank_run_on_american_union_bankPhoto credit: National Archive

Memorabilia and souvenirs are ripe sources for historical fiction. I remain intrigued by a World War II-era menu my mother saved from a restaurant in Shreveport, La. She was visiting my father, an Army soldier poised to ship out to Italy. For her, the menu was a romantic memento. For me, as a writer, I see a young couple with an uncertain future, about to be separated by a war being fought an ocean away, and I wonder what they said and what they were thinking. That’s where historic fiction begins. b49bb3fb-45d9-4252-a2f0-23f464d866f0

What’s in your attic with the power to evoke a story from the distant past? So many  stories are just waiting to be uncovered. Please share your comments and some of your favorite historical fiction books.

Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who has expanded into children’s literature. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne

 

 

 

 

Time Travel With Historical Fiction: by Marilyn Ostermiller

Harper Lee’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was recently voted America’s best loved novel in a competition sponsored by the Public Broadcasting System.

            Published in 1960, “Mockingbird,” harkened back to a racially-motivated incident in a small Alabama town in 1936.

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Classic historical fiction tugs at our hearts and can motivate us long after we’ve turned the last page. Miss Lee immersed readers in a previous time and place to such an extent, that book has been credited with helping fuel the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

            Who doesn’t remember how a desperate Scarlet O’Hara tore down the green velvet drapes in the parlor at Civil War-ravished Tara, to sew them into a dress she hoped would entice a bank officer into giving her a loan? Or, when George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” stopped a run on the bank in the 1930s, by cajoling customers into withdrawing only as much money as they absolutely needed?

Getting the details right requires meticulous research of authors. I’m writing a historical novel about a 12-year-old girl, who vows to win the 1932 National Spelling Bee, to prove she’s the best speller in America. The idea came to me when I visited the official site of The National Spelling Bee, www.spellingbee.com. I discovered, that in the midst of The Great Depression, ordinary kids were competing to win a bag full of gold coins, worth the equivalent of about $60,000 today.

That, in turn, led me to wonder who these kids were and what words the finalists spelled. That directed me to archived newspaper articles reporting on the finals of the 1932 National Spelling Bee. I learned the national championship was held in the National Museum in Washington, D.C. The first thing visitors saw, in the lobby, were glass cases of life-size, stuffed animals, some of them reputed to have been shot by President Theodore Roosevelt while on safari in Africa.

With the help of the Smithsonian’s archives, I’ve been able to describe what it was like for those kids, who ranged in age between 8 and 13 years old, to approach the microphone on that stage, take a deep breath and spell their words in front of an audience of more than 100 people. The winning word that year was “invulnerable.” It was spelled by Dorothy Greenwald, who took the grand prize back home to Des Moines, Iowa.

            Historical fiction transports us back in time, but as with many things in life, the devil is in the details.

Next month: The second post in this series on researching historical fiction will delve into which details are most likely to resonate with readers.

Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time professional journalist, who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

 

 

Part 2: Flavors of Summer — Seven Ways to Serve Ice Cream by Marilyn Ostermiller

Attention Ice Cream Lovers: Here’s a challenge to make you smile. Enjoy ice cream served a different way every day for a full week.  These seven suggestions demonstrate how easy and enjoyable this challenge can be. Feel free to include your own favorite ways to serve ice cream as well.

Ala Mode: A fancy way of saying, “I’ll have a scoop of ice cream on top of my pie.” A classic combination is warm apple pie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Banana Split: Cut a banana in half lengthwise and lay together in an oblong bowl. Top with three scoops of ice cream. The classic combination is vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, but use your imagination. Spoon one or more syrups over the ice cream. Hot fudge is a good place to start. Garnish with whipped cream and chopped nuts.

banana_split_with_icecream

Brownie Alaska: Start with a pan of brownies cut in 3-inch-square pieces. Cut slices of ice cream the same size. Keep ice cream in the freezer until time to bake in a 350-degree oven. Make a meringue by beating six large egg whites, a dash of salt, and 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar in a mixer, until soft peaks form. Continue to beat while gradually adding 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar, until peaks stand alone, when the beater is lifted out of the bowl. Arrange the brownies on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Place a slice of ice cream on each brownie. Spoon the meringue over each brownie until no brownie or ice cream is showing. Bake until meringue begins to brown, but no longer than five minutes.

Cone: Legend has it the first ice cream cone was created by a fast-thinking waffle maker at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, when the ice cream vendor in the adjacent booth ran out of cups. He quickly rolled one of his waffles into the shape of a cornucopia and handed it to the ice cream vendor, who filled it with ice cream. The idea quickly caught on. Months earlier, an Italian immigrant to the United States was granted a patent for the ice cream cone. Like they say, great minds think alike.

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Root Beer Float: Place 2 scoops of ice cream into a glass. Hold the glass at an angle and slowly pour 3/4 cup root beer over the ice cream. It will fizz, but take it slowly and it won’t overflow.

Sandwich: Start with two cookies, 2-3 inches in diameter. Spread one with a generous scoop of ice cream, Top it with the other. Sugar, chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookies are among the popular choices.

Waffles: Toast frozen waffles or bake batter in a waffle maker. When cooled, top with scoops of ice cream, and syrup or fruit preserves.

For a fun picture book about the joys of ice cream check out SCOOP THE ICE CREAM TRUCK by Patricia Keeler.  SCOOP, PIN & MAGNET

Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

 

In case you missed Part 1 of this ICE CREAM series, here’s the link:

https://wordpress.com/view/darlenebeckjacobson.wordpress.com

 

Celebrate July With the Flavors of Summer by Marilyn Ostermiller

If you need a reason to indulge in ice cream, here it is: July is National Ice Cream Month. It has been, since 1984, when President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation. Other flavors of summer celebrated this month as well, are baked beans, hot dogs and blueberries.

My favorite ice cream memory is a generous bowl of pistachio gelato my husband and I shared at the ancient town square in Taormina, Sicily, atop a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean, on a summer Sunday. Children played soccer nearby. Families strolled home from church. I savored the crunch of chopped nuts in every bite of that creamy green confection, served in a frosty, stemmed goblet.

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Ice cream has been enjoyed throughout history:

  • Roman Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar (D. 54-86) is said to have frequently sent runners into the mountains for snow, which was then flavored with fruits and juices, according to the International Dairy Foods Association.
  • Over a thousand years later, Marco Polo returned to Italy from the Far East with a recipe that closely resembled what we call sorbet.

It wasn’t until the 1800s, though, the invention of insulated ice houses and other commercial equipment made it possible for ice cream to be widely enjoyed around the world.

Vanilla is the popular flavor, according to a survey conducted last year by the International Dairy Foods Association. The next four most popular flavors, were chocolate, cookies ’n cream, mint chocolate chip and chocolate chip cookie dough.

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The trend is toward unusual flavor couplings. For example, The Bent Spoon, in Princeton, N.J., specializes in small batch ice cream and sorbets using local and organic ingredients. Ricotta-pistachio, strawberries and elderflower, banana chunk, crème fraîche, school garden mint nib, pink rose, and lavender and mascarpone, were among the 28 flavors chilling in the display case on a recent day. https://www.facebook.com/pg/the-bent-spoon-132592140111950/reviews/?ref=page_internal

There are plenty of family friendly ways to churn a batch of ice cream at home, ranging from hand crank freezers to electric freezers that create ice cream in about 30 minutes.

Here are two books to get you started:

The Homemade Ice Cream Recipe Book: Old-Fashioned All-American Treats for Your Ice Cream Maker by Robin Donovan and published by Rockridge Press. It features such time-tested flavors as Cookies and Cream, Classic Vanilla, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, and Red Velvet. The easy-to-follow recipes are all based on one classic base. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MXY0ANB/ref=rdr_ext_sb_pi_hist_3  

  • The Homemade Ice Cream Recipe Book: Old-Fashioned All-American Treats for Your Ice Cream Maker    

Marilyn will return later this month with PART 2 of the history of ICE CREAM.

 

Marilyn Ostermiller        Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.