Guest-Dorothy Howell

Jessie: I am always delighted to host guests on the blog and today is no exception. I am certain readers here will enjoy Dorothy’s books. Let’s give her a warm welcome!


         Hideaway Grove, the fictional setting for my Sewing Studio mystery series, is everything I could dream of in a small, quaint, touristy town.  There are art galleries, specialty shops, boutiques, and cafés, and a village green with a gazebo and a bandstand.  The homes are painted creamy pastels, all with flower boxes and white picket fences, a storybook land come to life.

         Idyllic—except for the murders that take place there, of course.

         When Abbey Chandler’s life in Los Angeles falls apart, she retreats to Hideaway Grove where she spent wonderful summers with her aunt Sarah who owns Sarah’s Sweets, the only bakery in town.  As Abbey tries to adjust to life in a small town—and solve a murder—she gets involved with a charity project making pillowcase dresses for girls in Africa.  To do this, she converts the large storage room in her aunt’s bakery into a sewing studio.

This is the premise of the Sewing Studio mystery series I came up with— mysteries and sewing.  But I found myself spending more time in Aunt Sarah’s bakery, and what a sweet treat that turned out to be.  

         In Hanging By A Thread, the second book in the series, Hideaway Grove is gearing up for a women’s convention.  The group was founded in the 1950s, so the organizers insist that everything about the convention have a 50s theme.  This presented a great opportunity for me to explore desserts that were popular during that era.  I found several mouth-watering recipes—and a few that I’m not so sure about.

         I collected every vintage cookbook I could find to come up with 50s desserts Aunt Sarah would recreate for the event.  Most of them sounded delicious—coconut cake, carrot cake, Devil’s food chocolate cake, pineapple upside-down cake.  A few of the vintage recipes I found didn’t sound quite so sweet—turnip custard, prune whip, and prunella cake.  

         I enjoy baking—Christmas treats are my favorite.  My family has several holiday must-haves.  One is sugar cookies.  I’ve been baking them since 1967, first with my sister, then with my daughters.  Another favorite is the Holiday Pumpkin Roll, a recipe that’s been in our family for decades.  For us, it wouldn’t be Christmas without these special treats.  You can find the pumpkin roll recipe on my website.

         Also on my website, you can enter for your chance to win a personally autographed hardcover edition of Hanging By A Thread.

         Readers, how about your family?  Do you have favorite recipes you make each holiday?

31 Thoughts

  1. Sounds like a fun, heartwarming book! I love traditions, including making sugar cookies with my grands, and baking peanut butter blossoms cookies.

      1. Actually prune whip is really good. I live in France and I like to bake for both English and French friends. My favourite things to bake are Sticky Jamaican Ginger Cake, Bakewell tarts and Chelsea buns. I also love to make Sherry Trifle.

  2. Fond memories of my Mom making sugar cookies and then my brother and I sharing many colors of sugar icing and spending hours to decorate them. Looking back, I know how smart my mom was to keep us occupied and not arguing while home during the long holiday break. 🙂 Mom always made a fresh grated coconut cake too. Of course her cake was made from scratch and the coconut was one she bought, crated and hand grated. Over the years, we adapted it to the Three Day Coconut Cake using a butter cake mix and fresh frozen grated coconut. Plus it has the ease of having to be make three days before you eat it meaning these less to do last minute before the big festive meal.

    Can’t wait to read and review “Hanging By A Thread”, which most definitely is on my TBR list.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  3. Welcome to the blog! I’m so excited you are here. I loved your Haley Randolph series and it was one of the series that showed me mysteries could be humorous. I’m looking forward to reading this new series!

  4. Congratulations on the book! My grandmother always made a nut roll at Christmas. She never wrote down the recipe and we’ve never been able to replicate it after her death.

  5. Welcome, Dorothy (my grandmother’s and my aunt’s name)! I’m a big baker, sweets, bread, pies, you name it. I make my mom’s/grandmothers’ Christmas cookies every year.

  6. DOROTHY: My late mom was a master home seamstress. She made my school clothes, special & occasion outfits by making her own patterns & her trusty Singer sewing machine. As for baking, that was not my mom’s strength. She had emigrated to Canada (from Japan) in the early 1960s. Most North American cooking was foreign to her. She did well as preparing main courses and side dishes but not dessert. I was the one who perused the Betty Crocker cookbook and was the baker in the family from a young age. Muffins for breakfast (blueberry, bran & raisin) and many kinds of loaf cakes from scratch were part of our family’s staple diet.

    1. What a fortunate thing to have such an accomplished seamstress in your life! And I understand about the cultural differences concerning home baking. My husband is from Brazil and there is not the same tradition for that sort of thing for home cooks there as in North America. Most cookies or cakes were purchased at bakeries when he was a child so home made things of that sort are still a real treat for him.

  7. Congratulations on your book! I love to make sugar cookies and haystack candies my mom used to make every Christmas. I have also added Chocolate Crinkle Cookies for my own “cookie” to add to that tradition. aprilbluetx at yahoo dot com

  8. My own pumpkin pie. Everyone loves it and nobody seems to be able to duplicate it. No secrets.

  9. As a family, we make lefse and Norwegian waffles among other treats. Each of us has our favorite role is making lefse. Spreading it with butter, sugar, cinnamon, and eating it is the best part! 😊

  10. Congratulations on your book!

    Butter cookies are part of our Christmas. The recipe was my grandmother’s. Best of all, the cookies freeze well. I’ll be starting Christmas 2023 in a few days!

  11. Growing up, we pretty much stuck to the standards of holiday meals. So I don’t recall any specific dish that stood out. But that’s fine by me because I prefer the standards anyway.

    My sister has become a really good cook who is always trying out new recipes. I love when I get invited to Christmas dinner at her place.

    My aunt made a chicken dish that I raved about for years. I wanted my leftovers packed up before the meal was even served, that’s how good it was. I believe I gave Edith the recipes a while back. It’s nothing fancy or anything but it was just so damn tasty that I couldn’t get enough. A family friend makes it for my birthday now.

  12. Yes. I make my grandmother’s pumpkin bread as well as a friend’s seven layer cookies. Thank you so much for being here as well as sharing. God bless you.

  13. The thought of you searching for vintage cookbooks hits home. Cookbooks are one of my weaknesses. Nice touch.

  14. My mother gave me a Betty Crocker New Picture Cookbook dated 1961 in 1961 and Better Homes and Gardens Classic Cookbook (which I still have). My mother in the 1950s always made Angel Food Cake for my father along with Tapioca Pudding and of course Chocolate Chip cookies. The Better Homes and Gardens has a fabulous Nutmeg Cake that we also made in the 1950s. At Christmas, I make Texas Trash, a special Chex mix with nuts and good stuff. Also, we had a restaurant in my hometown that made Chocolate Icebox Pie and a Cream Cheese Pie and when they closed, they gave us the recipes and they are to die for.

  15. I forgot to say congrats on the new book. I learned sewing in high school and mad all of my clothes for years as I loved sewing. I also made placemats, napkins, aprons, hot pads, and robes for Christmas gifts. So, your book sounds like it checks off many of my boxes. Now if there is a dog, it checks them all off.

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