Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, July 29, 2023

The Changes I've Seen in my Lifetime

 A Big Family Week:

Birthday photo with my children, Dave & Susie

Birthday photo at the "almost open" Capital Bar in Sanford

Cassidy's birthday is two days before mine. We celebrated in absentia with an old photo of our 17-year-old almost licensed pilot.

The Citrus Singers performed several times over the course of the International Girl Scout Convention in Orlando last week. (To great acclaim.) Below, a nostalgic moment, the final time Riley packed up equipment after a performance. She has not only aged out of Scouts but will be going off to Stetson University this fall.



Having just passed a birthday that has me inching up on Methusaleh, I've spent a bit of time over the past few weeks thinking about the world that was. And decided it might be fun to share a few things with those who never knew that world. I've scribbled a whole bunch of notes but have undoubtedly forgotten a thousand changes I should have included, but here are the ones that seem most significant to me.

1.  Freedom. I was given an enormous amount of freedom to wander as a child, to play where I would, enjoy solitude if I pleased. My own children enjoyed the same freedom. And I hope that's still true in some small towns, but all too many of today's children never venture out of the house without an adult. They go to the park, have play-dates, etc., every moment under adult supervision. Yes, I know the world has changed, but not learning to be on one's own is a serious detriment to growing into an independent grown-up.

Grace note:  This is not my imagination. As previously mentioned on this blog, when I toured the FBI Academy a decade ago, we were told that it was getting harder and harder to find recruits with "street smarts." Children were no longer allowed to be "out there," discovering the world for themselves.

2.  Travel.  Before the gas rationing of WWII, my family drove from New England to Nebraska every summer to visit my grandparents. I stood the entire 1500 miles each way, poised on the floor of the back seat directly between my parents, so I could see where we were going. No car seats, no seat belts. Just the fun of seeing what was out there.

3. Travel.  It was a three or four day trip from Massachusetts to Nebraska at that time. We stayed overnight at "cabin camps." As the name implies they were little more than one-room shacks with a bed and an army cot (for me). If nature called, there was an outhouse out back.) As I recall, motels did not arrive until after WWII.)

4.  World War II. The war affected everyone's life. Nearly every house had a "star banner" hanging in the window. Blue for "currently serving," Silver for "missing," Gold for "killed in Action." Huge containers of chicken wire sat on every New England green; one for anything made of aluminum, particularly pots and pans; one for old tires. My mother did a weekly stint at the local emergency HQ; my father (who aged out of the draft by two months) stayed up all night once a week, doing his bit as an airplane-spotter. I recall learning all the plane silhouettes when he did. And I still remember sitting on the school's well-worn wooden stairs during Air Raid Drills. And once a week we brought in money to buy Savings Bonds to help support the war effort.  [Lots more, but time to stop.]

5.  Diesel Trains.  We moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut only months before the outbreak of WWII. Schools were strictly disciplined in those days, although we never considered it a hardship. That's just the way things were. But one day - I believe I was in sixth grade - we heard a loud noise we had never heard before. The entire class jumped up and ran to our second-floor windows. (I suspect the teacher did the same.) The noise came again - no one could figure it out. Order was restored and only later did we learn that what we'd heard was the whistle of the first diesel train to rumble through out small Connecticut town. [Time - c. spring 1944, as I recall.]

6.  Radio, Newspapers & Newsreels.  During the war and for many years after, these were our only source of information. Radio and Newspaper you can understand, but what was a Newsreel? Newsreels preceded the showing of every movie at the local theater. During WWII this meant photographers risking their lives to show us what was happening. (Something we take for granted these days.) And, believe me, I have not forgotten the impact of full movie-screen news, particularly the scenes of the liberation of the holocaust camps.

7.  Washing.  From Grade 3 through Grade 7 I remember helping my mother hang clothes from our second-story apartment in Connecticut. There was a pulley that ran from our back porch to a big tree twenty to thirty feet away. We'd peg each piece to the line, give it a pull, and peg the next. I'm not sure when, during that time, I was considered old enough to run the clothes through the "wringer" on our washer, but I still remember the thrill and tension of making sure my fingers didn't go through as well! When we moved to our very own house (I was in 8th grade), we had a standard clothesline in the backyard. [I'm drawing a blank on when the ancestors of our present-day washers & dryers first made their appearance.]

8.  Cars.  There was no such things as Automatic Shift, though, thank goodness, it arrived not long before I got my driver's license at age 19. And Turn Signals? No way. I still remember having to stick my arm straight out for a Left turn, bent at the elbow for a right turn. 

9.  Telephone.  I'm not sure what year it was, but we were living in our new house, so I was likely in 9th or 10th grade when, suddenly, we no longer picked up a phone and heard a live operator ask, "Number please?" We had to look up someone's number in something called a Phone Book and dial it ourselves, one number at a time on a wheel attached to the front of the phone? What was the world coming to? 

10.  Milk Delivery. I almost forgot - this was the era when milk was delivered directly to every house. Daily. When my husband and I moved into our waterfront home home in Branford, CT, in 1963, there was an entryway with a large aluminum-lined wooden chest (with lift-up lid) designed especially for milk delivery. 

Addendum to #10:  Oddly enough, grocery delivery is NOT new. My mother, the author, Wilma Pitchford Hays, had her groceries delivered, beginning way back in the late 1940s right up to the time we moved to the New Haven area in the summer of 1952.

PART II - Post 1950  will, hopefully, appear next week.


This week's shameless promo:

Although I wrote The Sometime Bride before Tarleton's Wife, TW was published first, in December 1999. A year or so earlier, my mother (the author) had handed me a newspaper article about electronic publishing, and we had wondered about this new method of publishing. So I suppose I was more willing to listen when I received a call out of the blue from a brand new e-publisher, Starlight Writer Publications, asking to include Tarleton's Wife in their opening line. (Evidently, the owner had been one of the judges in an RWA writing contest I'd entered.) A publisher was REQUESTING to publish my manuscript??? I wasn't about to say no!

And thus began the first of four e-incarnations and two paperback versions of Tarleton's Wife. Finally, after many years, I got my rights back, and it is now available on Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, and other e-vendors. One of the wonders of e-pub:  Nearly 25 years after its debut, Tarleton's Wife still makes the sales chart each and every month!

 On the night before the final battle in one of the most harrowing retreats in British Army history, a colonel wagers his only child in a game of cards. She is rescued by Major Nicholas Tarleton, who marries Julia Litchfield the next day, but only as he is dying. Julia, a hardy soul who has followed the drum all her life, takes over her husband's estate, becoming a heroine to Nicholas's tenant farmers, and is developing an interest in a new man when totally unexpected events plunge her into a conflict of love and honor that might have challenged Solomon himself.

Reviews Excerpts:

"A real historical novel, TARLETON'S WIFE places the author in the ranks with Victoria Holt and a handful of other writers of romantic fiction that I have read, reread, and loved." Patricia White, Word Museum

"TARLETON'S WIFE . . . is filled with action and emotion, and with well drawn, realistic characters headed by a strong, admirable and totally likable heroine. The author has extraordinary ability to bring her characters to life and to create a real world around them." Lily Martin, Romance Communication

"Ms Bancroft has a clear voice and the potential to be another Mary Jo Putney or Mary Balogh." Kathe Robin, Romantic Times

"This is a very well written piece, painted with rich history and wonderfully drawn characters. We will be seeing much more from this brilliant author." April Redmon, Under the Covers

~ * ~
For a link to Blair's website, click here. 


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft) 


Saturday, July 15, 2023

Gallery, Recipes & Blatant Promo

[Next Blog - July 29]



A big birthday coming up on the 19th. I've spent a remarkable number of years on this planet and know, for all the hassles and disappointments, my life has been blessed with great joys, as well as long stretches of peace and contentment. Love my family, love to write. Am blessed with a second family in my church choir. And have great confidence in the our next generation, just blossoming into the glory days of college. What more could I ask?

Please note:  None of my three grandgirls were responsible for the following.


Is that writing Japanese?

Japanese Cherry Tree


And for the authors among us . . .

~ * ~


When summer comes around, recipe writers seem to talk barbecue non-stop. Well, I have to tell you, not all of us have barbecues - or a man of the house, as traditionally expected for a proper barbecue. (The male's chance to shine!) So today, I'm posting a few recipes that don't need a grill, charcoal, gas, or a male in a great big apron. Although I've concentrated on a variety of tempting asparagus dishes, the first is the absolute easiest and fastest way to cook that all-American dish, corn-on-the-cob.

Microwave Corn-on-the-Cob

 I have no idea where this recipe came from, but I've been cooking corn this way for 20 years or more. It's not good for crowds, but is absolutely amazing for 1-4 people. Instead of struggling to shuck the corn, clear the silk, boil water, cook 3-5 minutes "by guess & by gosh," then fish the cobs out, try this:

1. Do NOT shuck corn. Do not trim.

2. Lay corn, husk and all, in the microwave. Cook 2 minutes on one side; turn, 1 minute on the other side. 

3. Remove. Trim ends (which will cut with ease). Pull off husks & silk (now also much easier - they just peel away.

4. Insert "corn holders" at each end, if desired. Butter & season to taste. Eat. 

Grace note:  Keep in mind that in microwave cooking each item must be timed separately; i.e., 2 cobs = 4 minutes on one side, two on the other.
3 cobs = 6 minutes on one side, three on the other, etc.

Below, four asparagus recipes to add a bit of pizzazz to any summer meal.


1 can (11 oz.) Mandarin oranges, drained & chopped*
½ cup chopped, canned roasted red bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1 tablespoon soy sauce (or lite soy sauce)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (or ¼ tspn. dry ginger)
1½ pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed**
¼ cup toasted, slivered almonds***

Gently combine Mandarin oranges, bell pepper, green onion, soy sauce, sesame oil & ginger in a small bowl. Cook asparagus in a covered skillet or large pot, 4-5 minutes. Drain. Arrange asparagus on a serving platter; spoon sauce on top; sprinkle with almonds.

*or c. 3 Mandarin orange "cups."

**I prefer to cut asparagus spears into smaller bites.

***To intensify flavor, toast almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2-5 minutes. 



1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed
cooking spray
salt & pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

 Preheat oven to 400°.

Arrange asparagus on a baking sheet. Coat with cooking spray; season with salt & pepper.
Bake 12 minutes, until tender.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Removed from heat; stir in soy sauce & balsamic vinegar. Pour over asparagus.



1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed
1tablespoon water
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 
Place asparagus in microwaveable casserole. Microwave on High 3-5 minutes, or until asparagus is crisp-tender.
Meanwhile, mix remaining ingredients.
Drain asparagus. Top with mayo mix.


1 lb. thin asparagus, trimmed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1½ tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley
kosher salt & pepper, to taste
In medium bowl, whisk mustard, vinegar & 1 tablespoon oil. Add parsley and season with salt & pepper.

Boil asparagus 2-3 minutes until tender. Drain; run under cold water to stop cooking.
Transfer to serving dish. Drizzle with vinaigrette.

Grace note:  Due to my allergies, I substitute good old cider vinegar for both white and red wine vinegars. Not ideal, but it works.

~ * ~

 For this week's blatant promo, the very first "sellable" book I ever wrote. 

Grace note:  I did write a book set in 1970s Russia (after a 10,000-mile trip through the Soviet Union), but back in the days of the Cold War, not even an agent could get New York to bite on a book not wholly critical of USSR. A book, oddly enough, in which I predicted someone would rise out of the KGB to take over the government. Several times in recent years, I've considered going "e" with it, but it's hardcopy only (written 10 years before the Computer Age), and every time I thought of revising, retyping, and publishing, our relations with Russia would blow up again, and the timing never seemed right.

So I put away my metaphorical pen until my children were grown, my husband had an incapacitating stroke, and as his caregiver, I was home all day with more than a bit of time on my hands. Which is why, twenty years after my first book and after reading a gazillion novels by classic Regency authors (at least three times each)—and as much as I loved them, wondering why they ignored the war raging on the Continent during that era—I plunged into writing a 140,000-word historical romance that turned out to be a saga of the seven years of the Peninsular War (Napoleon's invasion of the Iberian Peninsula). And somehow came up with the highly apt title of The Sometime Bride. [Ballantine offered to publish it if I'd change the heroine's age. Idiot that I was, I refused.]

My second novel, Tarleton's Wife, ended up being published first, with The Sometime Bride a close second. Both have seen several incarnations over the years and are available at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and a long list of other e-book vendors.


A very young bride finds herself married to an enigmatic British spy "for her safety." And is plunged into a seven-year, highly personal view of the Peninsular War—ending, after years of blind devotion, in discovering a betrayal of her trust so immense she can only wonder: Is she the sometime bride of a man who never existed? A discarded mistress? Or a beloved wife whose only rival is her husband's expediency in a time of war?

Author's Note: In addition to being a saga of young lovers caught up in a war, The Sometime Bride is the history of the Peninsular War, Britain's fight against Napoleon in Portugal and Spain. The story moves from France's invasion of Portugal and British troops being driven into the sea at La Coruña to the return of British troops under General Sir Arthur Wellesley, the fortified lines at Torres Vedras, and the gradual push of French troops across Spain and back to France. Plus the chaotic times in Paris after Napoleon's surrender and the Emperor's triumph as he gathers up his old troops, only to be stopped in one of the most famous and bloody battles in history—Waterloo.

~ * ~
For a link to Blair's website, click here. 


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft) 

Saturday, July 1, 2023

GALLERY ( incl. our budding pilot)



On Wednesday, June 28, we celebrated my daughter Susie's birthday, and on Thursday, June 29, her youngest daughter, Cassidy soloed for the first time. Family went wild!

Short recap:  Cassidy, who won't be 16 until July 17, is one of 130 Air Force Junior ROTC students chosen for a government-sponsored 8-week flight training program. Which she is doing in a group of 16 assigned to Elizabeth City, No. Carolina.

Mike, Cassidy's father, has an app that allows him to track her flights, which he has been doing constantly since she started her training. A truly astonishing app, as you will see in the pic below. Cassidy describes the program as "stressful" - a barrage of instruction and flying from morning to night. But, she also reports, they are well fed! They are housed in a college dormitory. 

Cassidy embarking on her first solo flight

Below, the view on the Tracker App. Susie swears she and Mike didn't breathe for the entire 18 minutes of the flight as they watched Cassidy do three take-offs and landings.

Cassidy getting her way-too-big flight suit

On the left, her instructor

Riley, Hailey & the Birthday  Girl

On an entirely different note - from Facebook . . .


Mentioning Hell might have made me think of this one (sent to me by my son in CT):


 From Facebook - "Albuquerque Sky" by Meteorologist Grant Tosterud:


And one of the strangest sights I've seen on Facebook:

Mountain village in Tibet

~ * ~


The Vicar's Daughter

 If you're inclined to believe that all ministers, pastors, and priests are natural-born saints, you might not want to read this week's featured Regency Gothic by Blair Bancroft. But if you believe - if only a smidgeon - that a female has the right to follow in her vicar father's footsteps . . .



Independent and capable Prudence Wedderburn, daughter of a vicar, is a woman before her time. She not only manages the parish duties usually performed by a vicar's wife, she has learned the art of healing, and during her father's final illness, she also assumes some of his religious duties—all actions welcomed by her village until her father's death abruptly ends her life as First Lady of Kenner's Cove, Kent.

Well aware she must curb her independence—even learn to practice subservience, a quality entirely unknown to her—Prudence accepts a position as governess to a five-year-old girl in Cornwall. Where, alas, rumors of her activities in Kent plunge her into difficulties with the church, she clashes with her pupil's father (an earl), finds herself hip-deep in smugglers and Cornish legends, is befriended by a 500-year-old cat, and discovers that someone—several someones?—want to kill her. Finding a happy ending in a deluge of disasters will be the vicar's daughter's greatest challenge.
~ * ~
For a link to Blair's website, click here. 


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)