Authors

Almond Cake

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Almond Cake with glasses of almond liqueur–perfect for a book club discussion of my novel, Under the Almond Trees!

I love to cook. When I wrote Under the Almond Trees, it was important to me that the family had a special almond recipe. I used almond cake throughout the novel even though I had never even tasted it! This summer I vowed to remedy this lack and bake an almond cake. I found several vintage recipes, but decided to try a modern one. It was absolutely delicious. Here is the recipe:

 

ALMOND CAKE

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole almonds
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks and slightly softened
  • 1 tablespoon almond liqueur
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Powdered sugar for dusting 

Directions:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the sides of a round 8″ cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Put the almonds, sugar, salt, and almond extract in the food processor and process until

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This is a picture of the plate in the photo above. Family is everything! This plate was a gift to my grandmother from a Navy buddy of my father’s during World War II. The server in the photo above is a sterling silver piece given to me for my 1981 wedding by my parents. The little red glasses belonged to my maternal grandmother.

the nuts are finely pulverized. Add the butter and liqueur and pulse until blended. Add the eggs and process until thoroughly blended. Add the flour and baking powder and pulse just until incorporated, scraping the bowl once with a rubber spatula to be sure.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

 

To unmold, slide a thin knife or a small metal spatula around the sides of the cake to release it. Cover the cake with a serving platter and invert. Remove the pan, peel off the parchment liner, and turn the cake right side up. Wrapped airtight, the cake keeps well at room temperature for several days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months; bring to room temperature before serving.

If desired, dust the cake lightly with powdered sugar before serving.

Authors

Author-go-Round: Me!

 

Ellen001IMG_0447Welcome to the third week of AUTHOR-GO-ROUND! This week it’s my turn.

My grandmother’s grandmother, Ellen VanValkenburgh, fascinated me from a young age. She left a tremendous legacy of strength for the women of my family, and she inspired my novel, Under the Almond Trees. On the left is a photograph taken sometime around the turn of the last century. I’m on the right, 100 years later, wearing the same brooch. Ellen died before my father was born, but here is how I imagine an interview with her might go.

Linda Ulleseit (me): Thank you for speaking with me, Grandma Van.

Ellen VanValkenburgh: What would you like to talk about today?

Me: I’ve always admired the story of you running your husband’s paper mill after he passed away. Was that hard emotionally? I mean was he the love of your life?

Ellen: (laughing) Such a modern idea! In my day we didn’t moon over our men. I did what I had to do to feed my family. I had two daughters then, you know, and a son on the way.

Me: Henry VanValkenburgh was your second marriage, though.

Ellen: That’s true. He was the father of my children, but Jacob… Jacob was my heart.

Me: The love of your life.

Ellen:If you insist. But we only had a short time together.

Me: Yes, true. Can we talk about your time in Santa Cruz? Did running the paper mill make you want to be in politics?

Ellen: Oh, I never wanted to be in politics, but when I tangled with the city over business matters it seemed foolish that women had no part in making decisions about how their city was run. Women couldn’t vote then, you know.

Me: Oh, I know. You fought hard for women to vote. I’m very proud of you for that. You even met Susan B. Anthony, is that right?

Ellen: (nodding) What an earnest face and genial smile she had!. Susan came to Santa Cruz at the request of her brother Elihu, a prominent man in Santa Cruz.

Me: And she inspired you to sue the county?

Ellen: Among others. But yes, I did sue in 1862. The law, after all, said a person born in these United States was a citizen and eligible to vote. Disappointing to learn that the law applied to Negroes but not women.

Me: But you persevered.

Ellen: Didn’t succeed until 1920. I was old by then.

Me: What a tremendous legacy to leave your children, though. What an inspiring life you’ve led.

Ellen: Well, I didn’t intend to be either a legacy or inspiring. I only wanted some say in how my city, and country, was run.

Me: Still, your niece by marriage and your granddaughter hold you in high esteem. As do I.UAT front

Ellen: That’s nice. Neither Nina or Eva were trying to be inspirational either. They just decided what they wanted and stuck to their guns until they got it.

Me: That’s admirable.

Ellen: Well, all right. I guess that’s so. (smiling) Share my story then with whomever you will. I hope they enjoy reading it.

Me: Thank you, Grandma Van. I’m sure they will.

Under the Almond Trees is available on Amazon here.

Also please visit these awesome AUTHOR-GO-ROUND authors:

Tracy Lawson www.tracylawsonbooks.com

Nina Day Gerard, www.ninadaygerard.com

Miracle Austin, www.miracleaustin.com

Connie Peck, conniepeck.wordpress.com

 

 

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Favorite Children

threecovers0I am often asked which of my books is my favorite, yet I’ve never had anyone ask which of my sons is my favorite. My books are like my children: they took a lot of effort to ‘raise.’ If I am distracted from them sales decrease, like children acting out to get attention. I’m proud of them, books and children, but I see their faults. Each book has its own personality and strengths.

My first book, ON A WING AND A DARE, has a love triangle. Emma loves both Davyd and Evan, who are brothers. I admire Emma’s strength, and enjoy reviews on Amazon or Goodreads where readers say they are rooting for Evan…or Davyd.

The middle child, IN THE WINDS OF DANGER, has a young but fiercely strong female character. Nia absolutely will not let anyone push her around, and it’s not always obvious who is trying to do so. Any parent would be proud of her independent fire.

The last in the Flying Horse trilogy is UNDER A WILD AND DARKENING SKY, which has a wonderful brother/sister relationship. Alyna and Ralf support each other even as they make choices that set

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them in opposition to each other.

My most recent book is UNDER THE ALMOND TREES, which is not about flying horses. The three main characters here are strong women who helped settle California and happen to be related to me. Ellen fights for women’s right to vote, Emily wants to be an architect, and Eva opens her own photography studio. All of this is taken for granted today, but for them it was a difficult road.

So each of my books are loved for different reasons. You can see my favorite love triangle, favorite strong female character, favorite siblings, and favorite inspirational women. But a favorite overall book? I can’t pick. Summer is under way now, so why don’t you read them all and tell me which is your favorite? Don’t forget to leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Thanks!

Reviews

Great Review!

A great big Microsoft Word - Document4THANK YOU to all the bloggers who hosted my Back to School Blog Hop! It was quite a heady month, reading all those new reviews, and I enjoyed the interviews, excerpts, and character interviews, too. To finish off the month, I’d like to share a new review from Amazon:

 

Format:Kindle Edition
Do you have a strong female role model in your life? I’m not talking about household names in the fight for women’s right to burn bras, I mean the everyday type, an ordinary woman with extraordinary strength, who lends strength to others to push beyond their comfort zone and spread their wings. Linda Ulleseit’s Under the Almond Trees is the story of the true grit and tenacity of women who struggled to be recognized in the male-dominated world of the mid-nineteenth century on up to the mid-twentieth century. Some wanted to be recognized as capable of running a business, to vote, to be allowed to choose what life they wanted to live and to be allowed in flourish in careers afforded only to men.Ellen VanValkenburgh was forced to be an independent woman upon the death of her husband, yet, in 1862, women were not allowed to vote, run businesses or become much more than elbow dressing on a man’s arm. Who would support her family, if not her? Who would stand up for the rights of women to be considered citizens? Instead of waiting for someone to step up, Ellen did so, herself, imprinting her belief in the right to choose on the female members of her family. Her legacy is passed down through the generations, as was her support and advice, as descendants take up their own crusades for the right to choose the path their lives took.

Are you looking for an inspirational read with a true-to-life historical feel? How about something to inspire a young woman today? Linda Ulleseit has brought history to life through her characters, her vividly depicted world and the atmosphere she has created with her words. What we would consider as archaic thinking only changed because of ordinary women with the fortitude to stand up and buck the system, over and over. I was lost in this world, living it, and horrified to actually feel how these women felt. I didn’t feel the need to raise a banner to a cause already fought, but I feel an eternal thankfulness for the pioneers depicted by these brave women. An excellent read, well-written, from a powerful wordsmith.

If that doesn’t top off a great month, what does? If you missed any of the posts during my blog hop, or you just want to check out the other blogs, you can find a full list of links here.
Authors, Reviews

Back to School Blog Hop

Microsoft Word - Document4Happy September! If your local school district is like mine, you’ve already been in school for two weeks. Nonetheless, I’ve always thought of September as Back to School month. This September, my books will be featured all month on a blog hop. Listed below are the bloggers who will be participating. Links to their blogs will be live once their Blog Hop post goes live. So put away those math books and click over to some interviews, book excerpts, guest posts, and other goodies.

Welcome to my Back to School Blog Hop!

 

September 2: Charles Ray  **  Charlie Ray’s Ramblings         
September 3: Apryl Baker  **  My Crazy Corner
September 4: Victoriya Aliferchyk  **  Vik Tory Arch           
September 5: Connie Peck  **  Connie Peck       
September 6: Angela Fristoe  **  Turning the Pages
September 7: Karin Rita Gastreich  ** Eolyn Chronicles
September 8: Courtney Vail  ** Gotta Have YA                     
September 9: Keeley  ** Keeley Reads                               
September 10: Evelyn Ralph  **  Evelyn’s Blog    
September 11: Cheryl  ** Gwyneira’s Book Blog    
September 12: Vanessa Aere  **  Book Butterfly Reviews          
September 13: Tiana Lemons  **  Ethereal Book Reviews    
September 14: Linda Ulleseit ** Chicks Writing Rockin’ YA          
September 15: DelSheree Gladden  **  The Edible Bookshelf          
September 16: Judy Goodwin  **  My Writerly World       
September 17: Emily Thompson  **  Clockwork Twist            
September 18: Charles Ray  **  Charlie Ray’s Ramblings   
September 19: Mary Collins ** Good Books Never Die     
September 20: Lauralee  **  History From a Woman’s Perspective
September 21: Kira Tregoning  **  Fantastical Reads     
September 22: Susan Stec  **  The Grateful Undead
September 23: Cathy Dougherty  **  Catherine Dougherty                          
September 25:  Dianne Bylo  **  Tome Tender
September 26: Jeanne Bannon Repole ** Beyond Words  
September 27: J.L. Campbell ** Reader’s Suite
September 28: Audra Middleton  **  Audra Writes
September 29: Jonel  **  Pure Jonel Confessions of a Bibliophile                    
September 30: Linda Ulleseit  **  Books, Books, Books
Contests!

Win a Free Copy of My Book!

final coverToday UNDER THE ALMOND TREES is featured on the historical fiction blog Novel Pastimes.

There’s  an interview with yours truly then a question. Answer the question (it’s an easy one–your opinion) and you’re entered to win a free copy of the book. Pass it on!

DAY TWO interview is up on Novel Pastimes. Check it out. You know you want to.

Excerpts

Excerpt From Under the Almond Trees

From Chapter 8, Ellen 1871final cover

Yellow has always been a color that is sunny, bright, and optimistic. No coincidence then that the suffrage movement has adopted it. This afternoon the hall we rent at the new Unity Church glows yellow. Early spring roses and daffodils, from the gardens of the ladies assembled here, fill tables covered in yellow cloth. The Women’s Suffrage Association gathers in style, as they have for the past year.

Issues raise their heads and roar, each one clouding the main cause of the vote. I support temperance and abolition, but I long to vote. In Santa Cruz, my Women’s Suffrage Association works with the churches and the other ladies’ clubs to bring progress to each of our causes. There is a lot of work to do, but at least suffrage now has a face in our fair town.

“Good evening, Mrs. VanValkenburgh.” The speaker is younger than I am, but a married woman. “So glad to be a part of this fine effort.”

“Yes, Mrs. Hihn, thank you again for coming,” I tell her with a polite smile.

“She says that every month,” L’Amie, standing beside me, whispers.

“Yes, dear sister, but her husband is a member of the County Assembly and has real power to help us.” For two years L’Amie has been back at my side where she belongs.

A few men, mostly husbands of the members, sit in a row of chairs along the back wall. I wish I could measure the depth of their devotion to the cause so as to determine if and when they are willing to act. I fear most are merely waiting for their wives.

Continuing to scan the room, I spot Marion pouring tea at the refreshment table. My oldest daughter has excellent posture, poise, and erudition, and her character is above reproach. Not bad for fifteen years old. When Mama passed three years ago, she left us money that keeps us housed and fed and pays for the simple but stylish dresses we wear. It is not enough, however, to fill the space she left in my heart or to attract a suitor for Marion. My political views are even more of a detriment, and now she has allied herself with the suffragists, possibly sealing her fate as a radical spinster. Her entire life has been molded by strong women with strong ideas, though, and I am proud of the young woman she is becoming.

The president’s gavel brings the meeting to order, and I see Mrs. Hihn hurry to sit with Mrs. Kirby and Mrs. Blackburn and Mrs. Manor. They are the elite of Santa Cruz society, leaders of every civic group that supports the arts and the downtrodden. Their presence is a benediction, but I need warriors. They’ve not yet proven themselves as such.

“Hundreds of those freed negroes have arrived in Santa Cruz County,” our president, Mrs. Howay, declares with just the right mix of pride and horror.

Having yielded my year-long presidency to the pretty woman with more vision than action, I stifle a groan. Abolition of slavery is a victory, even if it means former slaves will be our neighbors. The women here don’t all agree. Heads nod, but are accompanied by nervous titters. I am tired of nervous titters. I am tired of head nods, too. We must do something to make our struggle visible to the community.

“Actually, the group was not that large.” Marion’s interruption draws attention, and a roomful of skirts rustle as everyone turns toward her. “They joined a negro group already in Watsonville. That is not the issue.”

“She’s magnificent, Ellen,” L’Amie whispers.

I agree. Marion is afire with youthful passion, idealism at its best, clad in one of her first grown-up floor-length skirts.

“What, pray tell, is the issue?” Mrs. Howay’s tone is frostier than it should be. I frown in her direction. All other eyes are on my daughter, who reminds me of L’Amie at the same age.

“The Fifteenth Amendment has been ratified. Those negroes will be voting on our new trustee.” Silence follows her words, and I know Marion has captured them. Everyone’s face reflects outraged horror at the idea of negro men being able to vote but not fine upstanding female citizens. The trustee election will put a new member on the board that runs our county and our town.

“Whatever will we do?” A theatrical gasp punctuates Mrs. Howay’s words. It’s a blatant attempt to retake control of the meeting. It doesn’t work.

Marion is young. She has made her observation, but has no idea what to do now. She looks to me, panic starting to show on her face. Last year, when I started this organization, I was proud to serve as its first president. The ladies are eager to attend the meetings, but they dither about like a flock of chickens with a dog in the pen—lots of noise and motion, but no progress. They read the newspapers from New York and San Francisco. They held a grand party when Wyoming women won the vote in 1867, and they elected Mrs. Howay for our second president. Clearly they are lost. They need a leader. I step forward.

“The Fourteenth Amendment clearly states that all persons born in the United States are citizens. The Fifteenth Amendment prohibits the government from denying citizens the right to vote.” At my words Marion smiles with relief, and the others are listening. “I think we should take advantage of that and register to vote in the next election.”

A cacophony of clucking erupts.

“But those amendments were meant for the negroes!”

“Can we do that?”

“The Sentinel would support us.”

“The Surf would ridicule us!”

“My husband would not approve.”

That last comment deadens the room. More than one of the ladies present agrees, or suspects it’s true. I’m not sure how many will risk disapproval that will rock their homes, but I must continue. “We can sit here and sip tea, whining about what we want, or we can go get it. Some of our opponents say that women wouldn’t vote if they had the right. We can refute that. The election is in April. That gives us a month.”

Mrs. Howay proves she has worth. “An excellent idea, Mrs. VanValkenburgh. Shall we vote on the idea?”

A motion is quickly made and seconded. It passes. We’ll be showing up to vote at the trustee election. Somber faces look at me.

“All of us?” I ask.

“I don’t think that will happen,” a reluctant voice near Marion says.

“Maybe we can elect a representative,” suggests Mrs. Howay.

Everyone’s already looking at me. They continue to do so as my name is suggested, a motion made and seconded, and the vote taken. Not long ago, L’Amie would have been included, but she is to be married later this week. She will be on her wedding trip during my attempt to register for the vote.

“Mrs. Ellen VanValkenburgh will be our representative. She will present herself to the registrar’s office for the next election.” I can’t decide if Mrs. Howay is proud of me or relieved they didn’t ask this of her.

A wail from the back corner announces that my younger children are bored with the proceedings and beginning to bicker. At nine, Henry’s main source of amusement seems to be eliciting a shriek from his twelve-year-old sister, usually with a pinch. Ellie obliges, her blue eyes outraged. Marion hurries over to chastise her brother and soothe her sister, but the mood is broken and the meeting adjourns.

 

About Writing

Historical Fiction

rdgpastToday Sarah Johnson’s blog, Reading the Past features an article I wrote. It details the preparation and writing of Under the Almond Trees. It explores the question all historical fiction writers face–how much fact and how much fiction do I include? Click on the picture to the right to read my article. Please leave a comment!

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Excerpt from Under the Almond Trees

From Chapter 5: San Francisco 1861final cover

After tossing and turning to the accompaniment of nature’s crescendo one January night, I am awakened by a kiss on my forehead, his luxurious mustache tickling by skin. Still dreaming, I murmur, “Jacob.”

A sharp exclamation replaces the soft warmth of the kiss.

I force my eyes open and my brain to awareness. Henry paces the room, fully dressed. He checks his pocket watch without looking at me. “Ellen, I must go to the mill.”

I wipe sleep remnants from my eyes and nod. He is desperate to assess the damage form the storm that has kept him home since before the New Year. Stiff and tired from a night disrupted by storms, I listen. The wind still howls outside our snug home, but the rain doesn’t slam against the windows.

Henry stops before me, places his watch back in its pocket and puts his hands on his hips. The clock in the parlor strikes, but my husband’s stern face captures my attention so I can’t count the tolling bells.

“How many children must we have before you stop calling his name in your sleep?”

“I’m sorry.” Normally I would rise and walk him to the door, but I am so tired. When I close my eyes for a moment, the room tilts. “I think I’ll sleep a little longer,” I tell him without opening my eyes.

“Pleasant dreams,” he snarls.

I hear the creak of the third stair, then the front door clicking shut. Now that I’m awake, guilt prevents me from falling back to sleep. Henry is a good man. He deserves my heart, but I gave it away long ago. I rise from bed and don a gown. I move slowly although I do not think I am ill.

Later I retire to the parlor, where I remove my knitting from a basket kept by the fire. I can knit and think about how to cheer Henry tonight. Maybe the cook can make his favorite vanilla almond cake for tonight’s dessert. My guilt stabs me. It’ll mean more if I make it. My knitting falls to my lap.

Our daughters play on the floor, quarreling quietly, moods matched to the weather. Moisture is in the air; the window panes are sweating. Another storm moves closer. Fresh rain pelts the windows as a sharp rap at the door draws me from my thoughts.
I rise and answer. On the stoop a mill worker has removed his hat and is shaking droplets to the boards below. Something about his expression… Dread descends on me and I feel the blood leave my face. Visions of a telegram ten years old haunt me. Jacob killed in mining accident. My deepest condolences.

“Mrs. VanValkenburgh?” the mill worker says, twisting the sodden bowler in his hands. He has trouble keeping his eyes to mine. Swallowing, he barrels on, “The mill sent me ma’am. There’s been an accident—I’m so sorry.”

“What are you saying!” I shout at him. If I have the courage to hear it, he should have the courage to say it.

“I’m so sorry. We was cuttin’ a tree ma’am. It fell wrong … A branch hit Mr. VanValkenburgh … He’s dead, ma’am…”

I am unable to respond, and he slinks away into the storm. For several minutes, I listen as the rain patters on the porch roof. Then I shut the door and lean my head against the painted wood.

Jacob and I were married a year—two months of bliss and ten months of waiting. Then the telegram. With Henry I had eight years and two daughters. In the eyes of some, the second marriage was more successful. To me, it makes no difference. I am once again widowed.