Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Heart-warming Tale from WWII

  Next blog:  June 29, 2024

Borrowed from a friend's FB page

 The 80th anniversary celebrations of D-day reminded me of a story I haven't told in a while; if ever on this blog.


Although my husband's father and brother were Yale graduates—his brother (five years older)ended up writing press releases for Admiral Halsey, commander of the Pacific Fleet—Elliott, for a variety of reasons, including dyslexia and a wicked step-mother, went to work at Pratt & Whitney (Hartford, CT) after high school, soon earning an exorbitant hourly rate as a machinist. After Pearl Harbor, though exempt from the draft because of his job, he signed up for the Army. And, no surprise, ended up in an Ordnance Battalion. Ordnance are the mechanics who keep things running—tanks, trucks, armored personnel carriers, Jeeps, etc. 

Elliott refused OCS (Officer Candidate School) as all new officers were being sent to the Pacific and he wanted to see Europe. It wasn't long, however, before he was a Master Sergeant, right arm to the colonel of his Battalion. Before D-day, the battalion was stationed in Bath, UK, their primary function to ready tanks for the invasion. After the invasion, they coped with the constant battle to keep all vehicles moving; in particular, cannabalizing nearly destroyed tanks for parts to fix tanks that weren't as badly damaged. 

At the time of this story, the Battalion was well behind the lines in France, the fighting moving inexorably on towards Germany. Some thirty years later, my mother, the author, Wilma Pitchford Hays, recorded Elliott's "organ" story in detail in Guideposts, a religious magazine, but I've been through every drawer of our filing cabinets and cannot find a copy, so will have to settle for what I can remember. 



In an effort to thwart the invasion, the German Army removed every road sign in France. All Elliott's Ordnance Battalion knew was that they were somewhere in France. (People were speaking French, and welcoming the Yanks in their midst!) One family even invited Elliott and a friend to dinner. Though neither the Americans nor the French spoke a word of the other's language, a good time was had by all. On the way back to camp, Elliott noticed a church and decided to try the door. (He had been playing organ or piano for services of every denomination since he joined up.)

The church was open; they found the organ. And discovered it could do nothing but wheeze. The two men left, but an idea had been born. The next evening, after their army day was done, they loaded up a bunch of tools and headed back to the village. Being winter, it was dark, the streets deserted. They entered the church and began to dismantle the organ, laying the pieces out on the pews. Then the restoration:  mending the mouse-eaten bellows, dusting, polishing; who knows what else? After that, the meticulous task of putting it all back together. The result:  a working organ. (As I recall, it was an ancient type that worked by pushing on foot pedals, no electricity involved.) 

During the entire time—pretty much all night—no one came in. The two men packed up, returned to camp without seeing a single soul. The next day, their orders came through, and the Battalion moved on. Elliott always ended his story with his hope that someday, while passing through France after the war, he would hear the tale of a French village that celebrated the miraculous restoration of their church's organ.


Elliott finally went to Yale on the GI bill, where he founded the Yale Audio-Visual Center with photos he took of cathedrals and artwork throughout Western Europe. His Ordnance Battalion had a reunion every year for decades. I suspect the Tale of the Restoration of the Organ may have been one of their most oft-repeated stories. Elliott was a Fellow of Branford College at Yale and was the first undergraduate bellringer, appointed only after showing a music book in which he had transcribed multiple hymns to fit Yale's ten bass bells. [Many years later, he was instrumental in Yale acquiring forty new bells to add to Harkness Tower's original ten. (He learned bell-ringing while stationed in Bath, UK.)] Elliott Hirsch Kone (1920-1998) was Jewish.

~ * ~

My respect for the men and women who defend their country and way of life is strong. Perhaps that is why so many of my Regency novels feature warriors who fought long and hard against Napoleon's attempts to be Emperor of Europe and the Mediterranean. Below, my Regency Warrior series, the illustration from the final book.


 In order:

The Sometime Bride

Tarleton's Wife

O'Rourke's Heiress*

Rogue's Destiny*

The Lady Takes a Risk

The Abominable Major

*The hero is a warrior, but not soldier.


Other Regency novels by BB, with connections
to the Napoleonic wars.

The Demons of Fenley Marsh

The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle 

And Freedom Fighters in a Galaxy Far, Far Away
The Blue Moon Rising Series

Rebel Princess

Sorcerer's Bride

The Bastard Prince

Royal Rebellion

~ * ~

 For a link to Blair's websiteclick here. 

For recent posts, scroll down. For Archives, see the menu on the right.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)     

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Cafloutis, cafloutis—what's a Cafloutis?


A different deer pic from Susan Coventry

Sadly, add "Amen."



 I have lived a great many years, more than I care to admit, but the word "cafloutis" never crossed my path until last week while reading recipes in the weekly Cooking section of The Orlando Sentinel. But here was a recipe was for:  "Raspberry Almond Cafloutis," and I love raspberries. Therefore, even though I'd sworn off collecting any more recipes, I succumbed to temptation, promptly baking it for Cassidy's graduation party, as there was no way I could ever eat something with two baskets of raspberries all by myself.

So what's a cafloutis? After sampling, I'd call it an "adult dessert." Healthy ingredients, not too sweet. For kids, you might want to sprinkle with powdered sugar, but frankly, a clafloutis—with the consistency of cheesecake but without the cheese—is a sophisticated taste more appealing to health-conscious grown-ups. 

Two of the people at the party asked for the recipe, so since I had it all typed up, I thought I'd share it with my readers. (I was fortunate enough to get PERFECT raspberries from the small Publix near me. Only one throw-away in each box.) [The photo, below, taken from the newspaper, is the best I could do. Too busy cooking & transporting to think of taking a photo of my own effort.]



Special note: This is a dessert with more appeal to adults than to children (minimally sweet). Also, flavor is best if served at room temperature.

1 cup almond flour
½ cup sugar
3 large eggs
½ teaspoon almond extract
Pinch of salt
1¼ cups Half & Half
3 cups fresh raspberries (12 oz.)
Unsalted butter, for greasing pan
Powdered sugar to sprinkle on top (optional)

1. Heat oven to 375°.
2. Put almond flour, sugar, eggs, almond extract & salt into blender. Blend on medium speed for a minute or so, until well combined. Scrape the bowl as necessary.
3. Add Half & Half and blend again.
4. Butter a 10" round baking dish or cast iron skillet. Arrange raspberries over bottom of dish.
5. Pour batter over berries. Bake on TOP shelf of oven rack for 30-35 minutes,* until puffed and lightly browned on top. (A toothpick or knife inserted in center should come out clean.)
6. Cool clafoutis to room temperature. Sprinkle top with powdered sugar.** Serve in wedges, directly from pan.

*My cafloutis never did quite “set.” Perhaps because I used the next-to-top shelf. I took it out at somewhere between 35-40 minutes.

** I did not use powdered sugar - much too sweet for my taste.

FYI, clafoutis can be made ahead, refrigerated overnight. Just be sure to take it out several hours before serving.

For Floridians:  Almond flour is available at Publix under the Greenwise brand.

~ * ~

My featured book for this week is my only Young Adult and my only book with a Medieval setting. However, The Captive Heiress, should appeal to all those who enjoy History with a good dollop of Romance thrown in. Many of the characters are real—Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine; their sons, Richard and John (made famous by the legends of Robin Hood). Many of the events in the book are also true, including Eleanor's capture. This was an era when the castles of the weak were regularly seized by the strong, with the estates of orphans particularly vulnerable. Also:  the story about William Marshall as a hostage is true, his father's words verbatim, a tale that has resounded down through the ages. 

Even if you're a devotee of the Regency, I invite you to check out the turbulent times of the Twelfth Century. I think you'll find they have a familiar ring. (The Richard and John of the Robin Hood tales are children in this book.)


Of all my books, the most beautiful cover

Alecyn de Beauclaire, an orphaned heiress, is taken captive at age nine by the Earl of Rocheford who wants to enjoy the income from her estates. Her first friend in the strange new world at Castle Rocheford is Ranulf Mort à Mer, a descendant of Vikings and a penniless squire with no hope of ever being able to afford a horse and armor so he can become a knight. As the years go by, their friendship is unwavering, even when tested by the preaching of monks who declare that all women are evil and should be shunned.

When Alecyn is almost fourteen (a marriageable age in Medieval times) King Henry II makes Alecyn his ward. She is thrilled because she knows the king will want to keep her money for himself and, therefore, will not marry her off for several more years. Perhaps there is still time for Ranulf to become a knight and distinguish himself in battle.

In her position as companion to the royal children and songstress to the royal court, Alecyn learns not only the epic romance of chivalry, but the dark side of romance as she witnesses the love/hate relationship between the king and queen. Ranulf, meanwhile, learns to fight side by side with a new friend, William Marshall. But even Ranulf's eventual elevation to knighthood is not enough to qualify for the hand of an heiress to four fine estates.

Until, one day, Queen Eleanor goes for a hunt on her lands in the Aquitaine, and Ranulf and his friend, William Marshall, are among her escorts. Perhaps, just perhaps, if the three young people survive captivity by Eleanor's rebellious knights, they may have a future after all. But which young knight will King Henry choose for Alecyn?

Author's Note: The Captive Heiress was written as a painless way for people from nine to ninety to learn about Medieval times, particularly the tumultuous twelfth century. In addition to a look at the dramatic lives of King Henry and Eleanor, readers will catch a glimpse of the early days of their many children, including Richard and John who became famous through the Robin Hood legend. Another very important character is William Marshall, often called the greatest knight who ever lived. Please see the "Whatever Happened to . . ." section at the back of the book for the rest of the story of the many real characters in The Captive Heiress.

~ * ~

 For a link to Blair's websiteclick here. 

For recent posts, scroll down. For Archives, see the menu on the right.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)     


Saturday, June 1, 2024

Best Graduation Cap Ever! & The Demise of RWA


On Thursday night, May 23, 2024, my youngest grandgirl graduated from Seminole High School, the ceremony held 20+ miles away at the University of Central Florida. (I did not attend, having vowed never to set foot in that auditorium again after what happened at Riley's graduation. Took me three weeks to recover!) But I thoroughly enjoyed Susie's pics of the events, including Cassidy getting a thumbs-up for her hat from the primary official on the stage. 

For those who live where decorated caps are not a tradition, the seniors in Seminole County go to great lengths to decorate their mortarboards for the Big Day. Cassidy had a rather unfair advantage in that her father, Mike, and his cousin, Lionel, are gifted with both creativity and know-how.* I'm not sure Cassidy had anything to do with this cap except wear it—and perhaps breathe down the necks as the men slaved over it. You will note that the airplane is actually "in the air," not resting on the cap.

Also, please note: Class #, name of future college, lighted runway, and trees. (Sanford International, across the street from their house, has trees on three sides.)



*Mike and Lionel are the proud owners of The Capital Room Bar in Sanford. They struggled to renovate the property during the Covid years, doing almost all the work themselves. Lionel's creativity is on every inch of the upscale decor. He also exercises his creativity creating new drinks, decorating the bar for a variety of occasions from Burlesque Night to Gin-Tasting (with lecture from an expert, which I found fascinating), and keeping a constant watch on making the bar a pleasant destination, as well as a place where only the best is served. If you're in the greater Orlando area, the address is 102 First Street, Sanford (corner of Park Blvd, two blocks south of the Lake Monroe). 


THE DEMISE OF RWA (Romance Writers of America)

Grace note:  This article is likely of interest only to authors.

Way, way back—in the mid 90s when I first began to write—being a member of the Romance Writers of America was an absolute "must" for anyone writing for a female audience, whether it was simple Harlequin-style Romance, complex Historical Romance/Adventure, Mystery with Romance, or any one of a dozen sub-genres. Belonging to a local RWA group was essential, as was attending as many national RWA conferences as possible. As an example of this, it was at an RWA conference that I met the Editor of Signet Regency Romances and decided to attempt to confine myself to the rules of that sub-genre so I could find favor with a New York publisher. And that is exactly what happened. Signet published six of my Regency Romances before the line was shut down in an era where Erotic Romance was suddenly taking over the market. Sigh.

I was thrilled to be nominated for a RITA—a big deal in those days. I attended RWA conferences on an average of every other year, soaked up all the expert knowledge offered, thoroughly enjoyed being part of the conference book-signings. Imagine me at a book-signing in the same room with Nora Roberts! (I also recall sitting directly in front of the aisle where three burly firemen lifted a best-selling Romance up (horizontally), to everyone's cheers.)

 In short, RWA was the be-all and end-all for Romance novelists. And then came the conference in Houston (national headquarters of RWA). I opted for a pre-conference tour of Houston, where I met an English lady (closely related to the Devonshires) who became a friend for many years until her passing. I even had an opportunity, several years later, to show her the sights in my part of Gulf Coast Florida. But . . .

During that tour I caught something no one else seemed to notice (I asked several of those sharing our bus & they looked at me as if I was crazy). Part of our tour was a visit to a Confederate cemetery, something I considered an odd choice, even more so as our bus driver was a black female. Little did I guess, however, that my New-England-raised sensitivity had spotted what would bring a mass exodus from RWA only a few years later.

Yes, it was accusations of Discrimination that began RWA's tumble from its pinnacle of power. Discrimination against authors of any color but white. Discrimination against any books with characters who were not lily white. Although I was primarily known for writing books set in Regency England where—despite what you see on "Bridgerton"—there were almost no Blacks or Asians, I soon joined the mass exit of the many authors who turned their backs on RWA after this topic was raised. 

And, truthfully, I have paid little attention to RWA since that time. But evidently, they were never able to recover. The announcement this week:  RWA is filing for bankruptcy. 

RWA was once THE source of useful information for budding authors, the stamp of approval for those who had made it, a showcase for newly published authors as well as the most renowned authors in the field. RWA will be missed. Or will they rise again? Hopefully, with all taints of Discrimination forever washed away. Meanwhile, a tip of the hat to those who recognized the problem and fought for change. 

SUMMARY. RWA, in its heyday, was a bulwark of strength for authors—providing much-needed information, sponsoring contests, awarding our efforts, and, above all, providing the opportunity to meet and talk with other authors. With most of its members totally oblivious to a discrimination that, I am convinced, was more a "built in" oblivion than a deliberate attempt to be an organization "for Whites only." RWA was an immense help to me, for which I am grateful. But I cannot deny its time had come.

~ * ~

This week's featured book is one of my Traditional Regency Romances published by Signet.

A duke in need of an heir, a sturdy young widow who has followed the drum, a young lady who scorns society, a stylish young fribble—exactly the type she most despises. And the stage is set for riot, ransom, and considerable mental adjustment before both pairs of Regency lovers are reconciled against the backdrop of unrest in London at the time of Waterloo.


"In a delightful dance worthy of any Regency ball, Ms. Bancroft interweaves her characters into one fresh and cohesive romance, letting each find their desires in an effortlessly smooth narrative. . . . Blair Bancroft has captured the Regency and has a firm grasp on its nuances and idiosyncrasies." Celia Merenyi, A Romance Review

~ * ~

 For a link to Blair's websiteclick here. 

For recent posts, scroll down. For Archives, see the menu on the right.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)