My Home Grows

What better way to begin the new year than by reading a new book? This month on “Reading and Refreshments,” we have been reading Alexandra’s own recently published novel, My Home Grows, as a family. It is quite interesting how different a book can sound when it is read out loud, compared to how it sounds being read to yourself, even when you are the one writing it!

Nora Beth, the heroine of My Home Grows, is a stouthearted Western girl who finds herself faced with a compulsory journey out East to spend the summer on Nantucket Island with her “refined” Eastern aunt and uncle and cousins Philip and John.

I frowned a little as I placed the skirt and blouse back in my bureau drawer. There was that word again. Refined.

My Home Grows

And once you’ve met her circle of family and friends out on her ranch in Colorado, you’ll understand why she doesn’t want to go! From exciting round-ups at the ranch to breaking horses with Uncle Dan, from chasing her good friend Devin down on horseback to cross-stitching with her mother, Nora Beth’s days are full of wonderful adventures and special relationships.

I let my eyes wander across the table again, resting on each face. These were my family, and each one was special and important to me. Oh, I didn’t want to leave them!

– My Home Grows

But Nora Beth finds that she can make a home wherever she goes, as she brings the influence of her vibrant nature into the lives of everyone she meets, no matter how different they are.

I felt warm and happy through and through. Maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad summer after all. Aunt Margaret was sweet anyway, and she didn’t seem so much like a stranger anymore.
I made a resolution on the spot. I was going to win the friendship of every one of my relatives before the summer was over . . .

– My Home Grows

It isn’t always easy, as Nora Beth’s Western determination and fierce loyalty bring her into conflict with Eastern ideals of detached propriety.

“Sir,” I said angrily, “perhaps you don’t think so; but where I come from, other people are everybody’s concern. You have no right to treat him like that. And if my uncle was here, he’d thrash you for it!”
“Your uncle is here, miss.”
“I mean my real uncle,” I replied haughtily.

My Home Grows

But courage and sincere friendship win out in the end, as Nora Beth’s home truly grows to include her Eastern relatives and many other new friends, from bubbly Florence to the gracious Gardiner family, and even the pompous village doctor!

I was delighted with the way Dr. Hurdy was acting. He had not behaved at all rushed or pompous. Maybe he was like Florence, and had to behave in a certain way to satisfy the people around him. Did the cottagers expect their doctor to use unintelligible terms and conduct himself in a hurried, pre-occupied manner. It was quite possible . . . When would I learn to stop judging people so quickly?

– My Home Grows

Obviously, the perfect treat to go with Nora Beth’s story would be one that she enjoys herself. Ping, the cook on Nora Beth’s family ranch, makes these crunchy almond cookies with ginger and molasses for her to take on her journey. The sturdy whole-wheat treats are strong to hold up in a basket during a train trip across the country—and still taste delicious at the end of it.

Ping was next, and, besides a hug, he presented me with another basket of food.
“Giminy, Ping,” I said, quite astonished, “that’s very nice of you, but Mother’s already given me enough food to get all the way around the world, not just to New York.”
Ping was unconvinced. He never would believe that Mother could cook as well as he could. “You take, Nora Bet’,” he said, tapping the basket wisely, “velly good.”
I peeked inside the basket . . . Goody, Ping had put in some of his wonderful almond cookies!

– My Home Grows

And the perfect pastime to go with this reading and refreshment would be a game of checkers or chess, just like the ranch hands play on Saturday afternoons—even if you don’t have a member of your family who can play as well as Steve!

“Hey, Beth!” Steve greeted me. “Come have a game of checkers with me.”
I went readily to the slaughter. I knew that I couldn’t beat Steve in checkers, but that just made it more fun to play. There was always the exciting thought that this might be the time I finally beat him . . .
“Steve,” I complained, “I don’t know how I’m ever going to beat you. You could probably be playing two games at once and still win both of them.”
Steve just laughed.

– My Home Grows

John ran his fingers slowly across a seam in his counterpane. “How many ranch hands do you have?”
“And they all whittle?”
“Yes.” Happy memories flooded over me. “We always have such good times on Saturday afternoons. There isn’t as much work to do, and we all stay inside and whittle and talk and play checkers. Some of the boys play chess, too; but I don’t know how.”
“What fun,” said John wistfully . . .

My Home Grows

And remember, if you decide to hold your own “Reading and Refreshments,” please let us hear about it! Tell us how your family enjoyed the book and whether or not you made the treat to go with it. If you can, send us a photograph as well. You can contact us at

Come back to “Reading and Refreshments” for the next installment in February!

Ping’s Almond Cookies

1 cup (4 ½ oz.) slivered almonds
¾ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
⅓ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
¼ teaspoon lemon extract
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons cooking molasses
1 tablespoon candied ginger, finely diced


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the almonds out on a sheet pan and toast until light gold, about five minutes, stirring frequently. Cool and chop very fine.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the almonds, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, ground ginger, and candied ginger.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, cut in the cubed butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in the lemon extract, milk, molasses to form a stiff dough.
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
  5. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface.
  6. Roll out ¼-inch thick and cut into 2 ½-inch rounds.
  7. Place the cookies on ungreased baking sheets and bake until the edges are set and browned, about 15 minutes.
  8. Let cool on sheet pan for a minute, and then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

Yield: 20 cookies


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