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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by 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. 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 angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. 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.

 

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.

I’m in my 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 still think of myself as married to him even though he’s been gone awhile now.]

I grew up in San Diego, went to college there, married the wrong man and stayed with him for way too many years, adopted 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 and one great-grandchild). 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” – 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. I still do some world travel, albeit as a single or with a group of friends.

At right below is a fairly 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 35 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 two other book group, so there’s a whole lot of reading going on in my life.

I’m a committed Christian, have been a member of a Presbyterian church (Trinity United Presbyterian Church) for about 35 years, did sing in the 130+ voice choir for many years, and am involved in two bible study ministries. I also help as a hostess at memorial services as well and volunteer in a care center at the church where we call members who are ill, recovering from illnesses, mourning a spouse’s death or are housebound. 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.