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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 aging 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, wealthy women) 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.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

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.