Monthly Archives: September 2016


America’s First Daughter: A Novel
Authors: Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow, 2016
Paperback Edition: 580 pages plus Notes and Reading Group Guide
Source: Personal copy

Patsy Jefferson is a heroine of her time and for all time. This compelling and readable novel tells her story in all its heartbreaking detail. The authors based her story on solid research. Excerpts of letters from Thomas Jefferson begin every chapter. Readers will discover not dry history, but a story of high interest. Many will not be able to turn the pages fast enough.

Goodreads gives the novel a 4.2 rating, Barnes and Noble 4.9. The era, Thomas Jefferson and Monticello come alive in the hands of these authors. Patsy’s tumultuous life and her loves fill every page with uncertainty and suspense. This novel was designated “editor’s choice” by the Historical Novel Society. Discussion questions and reading guides are available on line and the paperback edition includes interviews with the authors.

The novelists follow Patsy from childhood to elegant life in Paris and back to America and Monticello where life in Virginia can be tough, even degrading. All along her way she is very close to her famous father. She marries and mothers eleven children. Her extended family is often disrupted and disruptive, but she devotes her life to struggling with all of their issues, including Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemmings, her own difficult marriage, and her hopes and dreams for all the people she loves. Yet, the reader will not be bogged down by her many trials and tribulations, but lifted up through Patsy’s loving determination and her struggle to be all she can be, especially to and for others.

If you are a history buff or a follower of Thomas Jefferson, you will enjoy this book. Seems to this reader that a great television dramatic series based on this book is just waiting to be written. It can’t happen soon enough for me. Hummm. Who should portray Martha “Patsy” Jefferson?



This city stays in my mind. A memorable day – the city scenes keep coming back for a visit.
The Portland Museum of Art is filled with treasures, as are most such places. Here we enjoyed the work of several of my personal favorites: Winslow Homer, John Singer Sergeant and Mary Cassatt, and, in a phrase you hear from me too often, much more.


Pictures taken from notecards are “Looking Out to Sea” by Winslow Homer


And “Helene is Restless” by Mary Cassatt. This painter’s pictures of women and children always touch my heart.

Learn more at

Near the waterfront stood this grey building which caught my eye. It seemed a fitting introduction to the city.


Our lunch spot, Scales, my favorite restaurant in Maine, and where I ate the best oysters ever! It is new, part of the famous Portland food scene many food writers can’t write enough about.


Inside, the lines of the dining room were clean and nautical, befitting a fish restaurant, though I also watched a skilled staffer at work trimming flank steak.


The remains of an interesting beet salad with yogurt and smoked trout roe. I’ve never had anything like it. Everyone in our group thought the flavor combinations interesting and delicious.

Here also the memorable Maine blueberry crisp, with oat crumble, and vanilla frozen custard. Maine blueberries just could not be better than our famous Michigan blueberries, but then again, they were mighty good! Blueberry desserts in Maine this time of year are a sure thing!!


Downtown waiting for the trolley tour.


Bright sunshine and breeziness made the waterfront lovely and picture taking difficult from the trolley. I share a few shots that give an impression of this city.




There was, as always, so much more ( I knew I’d say it again), including an interesting old church and a beautiful waterfront park.




Thanks to all who commented to enter the contest!! Please enter next time when the Giveaway will likely be Fiction.


1. Liz Hurbis – Michigan

2. Betsy Hemming – Michigan

3 Cheryl Ardis – Michigan

4. Susan Carter – California

5. Barb Dean – Michigan

Books should be delivered or in the mail sometime this week.
Condolences to those whose names were not drawn. Next time!



Let’s take a short break from Maine.

You can win a slightly used nonfiction book just by commenting on this post. Leave a reply and name a favorite nonfiction book, or the nonfiction genre you are most likely to read, or tell those of us out in blogland what you think about non-fiction. As always there will be five winners, if you comment. Names are drawn from the bowl/hat.

Genres to be given away to lucky winners: Memoirs, Information (food), Biography (women soldiers), Biography/History (the real Downton Abby), one award-winning book is part nature writing, memoir and literary meditation. A total of nine non-fiction books are in the give-away stack. I base the match of book and winner based on your comments and anything I might know about your reading.

Entries will close Sunday night at midnight. Books will be mailed to winners next week.

Take a chance. You might find a book in your mailbox you are happy to have.

Do comment and enter! Good Luck!



Some photos for this post courtesy of Karen Kozian

Is it possible to visit this church without becoming overwhelmed by the beauty of the building and the place, without becoming drawn into a state of unexpected spirituality or without becoming prayerful? A strong sense of history permeates the sights, sounds, smells, the touch of ancient stone, and the taste of the salt air as it burrows into the soul of the visitor. Being here on this point of land, wrapped in the sea breezes held me in a spell I found difficult to identify.



In 1885 this drawing of the church was prepared by Boston Arcitect Henry Paston Clark. Kennebunkport Seashore company donated the building sites along with the existing rocks on the shore – a stone church was possible. Rev. Short wrote: ….a stone church here will give the impression of permanency. A stone church gives confidence to a congregation….A stone church shows that a congregation has come to stay…”

Hard pine beams frame the inside of the church. Pews and clergy stalls are hewn of oak. The cornerstone was laid in 1887.





Much restoration was completed in 2005-2007. Among the restored items to be celebrated in 2007 were the bells and fully restaored stained and leaded glass windows. The bell tower was dedicated to Dorothy Walker Bush by her family

The park-like setting surrounds the church with grass and flowers running out to the rocky shore. Was there ever a better place for quiet meditation?


This church is located near the home of George and Barbara Bush. The Bush Family has been involved with this church which has benefitted from gifts from both the Walker and Bush Families.

More information at the website


Our Maine travel group also visited the lovely grounds and buildings at St. Francis Franciscan Monastery in Kennebunk, Maine. Google it for more information.



Titles in my ever-growing stack of books.

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett – a classic piece of American fiction written at the turn of the 20th century. Many think it is a landmark in defining the American experience, this time on the coast of Maine.

Yes, I’ve started reading this one.

The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat, 2004 Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction as well as other prizes.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Recommended to me by many, this is an acclaimed redemptive novel I do want to read. Somehow, I start and stop it. It is laid aside. I must stick with it sometime soon.

Floridanos, Menorcans, Cattle-Whip Crackers: Poetry of St. Augustine by Ann Browning Masters. I heard Ms Masters speak several years ago and have been looking for this book ever since. Now, I have it. I can’t wait to read some of the poems.

Grand River and Joy by Susan Messer. This is a book club novel. The title is after a landmark intersection in the city of Detroit.

Follow the River by James Alexander Thom. An historical novel about a woman kidnapped from her Virginia Wilderness home and held captive by Native Americans. I am a fan of so-called “Captivity Narratives.” My own ancestors in New York State had a nodding acquaintance with this phenomena. Usually the stories focus on the courage and adventures of female captives. This particular title turned up in a memoir I read recently. I couldn’t resist taking a look at it. It was published in 1981.

Grief Is the Thing With Feathers: A Novel by Max Porter. The title and the big print enticed me. It’s a short novel.

America’s First Daughter : A Novel by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. This one grabbed me from the first page. Love the heroine and her voice is mesmerizing. Judicial use of nineteenth century language always seems natural and plunges the reader into the past.

Daily Strength for Daily Needs by Mary Tileston. This is a book of brief meditations recommended in The End of Your Life Book Club. I find it very helpful.

The Etiquette of Illness by Susan P. Halapern. This is another recommendation from the author of The End of Life Book Club. I always feel inept in the face of illness. Maybe this will help.

Illuminations : a novel of Hildegard Von Bingen by Mary Sharratt. I’ve had my eye on this book for a long time. Finally ordered from one of my discount booksellers. It is the story of a brave woman in the Middle Ages and is an award winning novel.

Though I’m drawn to non-fiction, what I’m really looking for is a good novel. How about you?

And, wouldn’t you know? I picked up a few more books on my recent trip. (More blogs about Maine coming up)

What’s in your stack?




Turn a page to another time and find yourself in a pastoral setting when you visit the only active Shaker Community in the world located near New Gloucester, Maine. The day was beautiful, the buildings constructed long ago of simple clean lines.


During the 1850’s and 1860’s the community cared for young boys with a watchful eye. The boys shared in the work of the community. These rooms are part of the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Museum.


The meeting house offers two entrances. Men and women were kept separated even for worship, and for all parts of their life.


There is a garden and a working farm which today is worked by others since there are only a few Shaker members of the community still living.

The Shakers are known for their beautifully simple furniture. Much of the furniture we saw was 19th century and reflected their craft and carefulness.


The store offers some of the products they make and sell.



There is a large herb barn not presently open to the public.


I found it a calming place and the tour excellent. Pictures are not allowed inside of many of the buildings. It is Maine’s largest National Historic Landmark.

For more information or follow SabbathdayLakeShaker Village on Facebook.



Visiting Portland Maine include a stop at the Standard Baking Company. Quite a place! Beautiful baked treats, delicious aromas, and well, just plain fun! It is located at 75 Commercial Street across from Portland Harbor.


A good friend told our traveling group about her love for Sarah Leah Chase and her cookbooks. You can follow Ms. Chase on Facebook at

That’s where my friend learned of the Standard Baking Company and the outstanding breads and pastries to be found there. Our group can vouch for the extraordinary flavor and multiple textures found in the items they sell. We bought scones, croissants, cranberry walnut bread, rosemary focaccia and more. Buttery crusts, full flavors and pull- apart goodness characterized the products we bought and ate. Yummm!


Sarah Leah Chase’s most recent cookbook is titled New England Open-House Cookbook: 300 Recipes Inspired by the Bounty of New England. This is the latest in a long line of much-loved cookbooks by Ms. Chase going back to her early work on The Silver Palate Cookbook.

You can read more about Standard Baking Company and their excellent baked goods at standardbaking


Thanks Dale for leading friends to this place. Now blog readers know about it too.



The parade of Maine treats continues!