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Just finished reading How It All Began: A Novelby Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant (she arrived after the birth, actually). Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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What makes my world rock? Having a fun dinner with friends, enjoying some nice, soft wine with classical music in the background, easy-going conversation, but enjoying it over a spectacular meal. Someone recently asked me why I’m willing to spend so much time cooking. Because when my hubby or a guest says “Oh, this is so wonderful.” It makes the work worthwhile.

ct-with-choc-roll

I’m in my early 70’s, and have lots of things yet to do in my life. My other half, Dave, my DH (you’ll see that throughout my posts, it means Dear Husband) of 31 years, enjoyed all my food experimentation, and God bless him, he washed all the dishes. Usually when we entertained, he even set the dinner table for me, and did much of the grocery shopping (because he LIKED to). His parents used to own a gourmet food and grocery market in Ocean City, New Jersey. [Alas, my darling husband passed away in March, 2014, of complications following a stroke. He was a Type 1 diabetic, and was very lucky throughout his life to have very few of the major problems that often accompany diabetes. He lived 74 years, 66 of those as a diabetic.]

I grew up in San Diego, went to college there, married the wrong man and stayed with him for way too many years, had a daughter during that time, was divorced and a year later found Dave, the love of my life. Between us we have 3 children (and now 5 grandchildren). They all live in California. I live in Orange County, California. In the land of sunshine.

Dave and I did a lot of traveling in our married years, as world travel was always important. I took him on a trip to England early in our relationship, as a “test run,” to make sure he’d travel well. (He passed the test, obviously, and he acquired the travel bug as well!) You find out a lot of things about a mate by living with him 24/7. We lived together for some months before we married – probably not something I’d do today – but back then I was skittish of committing myself to someone if I didn’t really know him well. We dated for 6 months, lived together for a year and married in 1983. When I wrote this bio some years ago, we still had lots of world travel places to visit or revisit (and not necessarily in this order): Tasmania (again), Spain (again), Rome (again), Venice (again, but off season), Newfoundland, South Africa, Israel (to see all the Christian historical sites), Stockholm harbor (again), Norway (again), New Zealand (also again). Places we’ve particularly loved: Italy, England (our two favorites), Spain, Turkey and inland Alaska.

At right and below is a recent picture of me in Paris (4 of us girlfriends traveled together for 2 weeks in Switzerland and France) – my friend Darlene and I were at Angelina’s, a very famous place for their hot chocolate. Did you know that French hot chocolate is thickened with flour? Who knew? I’ve recently had cataract surgery and don’t have to wear glasses anymore! That’s a whole lot of fun, though I still must wear them for reading.

When I draw on my travel memories, carolyn_in_Paris_Angelinas_hot_chocolate_200favorite places that come to mind: the villa in Provence that a group of us (friends) rented a few years ago; one of the lochs in Scotland where Dave and I were the only car for miles around. We were on a very narrow 2-lane track – we stopped the car – rolled the windows down and just listened – to the wind – to the leaves rustling – to the lapping water – it was magical; staying at a very posh hotel on the north shore of Lake Lucerne (Switzerland), and a particularly memorable meal we had in the hotel’s restaurant with a view of the lake, mostly occluded in fog that evening; standing at the Spanish Steps in Rome; the Blue Mosque in Istanbul; waking up in Giza, just outside Cairo (Egypt) to look out our hotel room window at the magnificent pyramid; seeing Michelangelo’s statue David in Florence (it’s huge); riding a Segway in Paris; the unbelievably green grass in Switzerland in the springtime; my first visit to Harrod’s in London, many, many years ago, when I bought a $200 (then) Burberry raincoat and thought I’d purchased the moon; and the week we spent in Hawaii with all our kids and grandkids some years back, at a rental home right on the sand.

Reading is also an important part of my life. I’ve been in a book review group (through AAUW, American Ass’n of University Women) for about 30 years. Mostly I read fiction, but the “better paperback” choices, not pulp fiction. Lots of my book reads will be on my blog. Maybe some cookbooks too since I read and buy way too many. I’m also in a 2nd book group now and a 3rd one too.

I’m a committed Christian, have been a member of a Presbyterian church (Trinity United Presbyterian Church) for about 30 years, sing sometimes in the 120+ voice choir, and am involved in two bible study ministries. I also help as a hostess at memorial services as well. I spend way too many hours on the computer every day. I enjoy playing a bunch of different solitaire games (they’re part of my morning wake-up exercises I tell myself), and doing my daily jigsaw puzzle at www.jigzone.com.

So come along for the ride, and see where my writing , cooking, traveling and reading take us.