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Just finished The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

Read Grace Unshakled, by Irene Huising. From Amazon’s page, it says: “In the year 2025, 17-year-old Grace Duncan finds herself in shackles because of her faith in Christ. An obedient daughter and stellar student, doing time in jail was never on her mental radar, despite the changes in religious laws [this takes place here in the United States] over the past few years. Through twists and turns in circumstances, Grace and a small band of Christians in Newport Beach, California begin a journey to discover what it means to follow Christ with unwavering faith in the midst of increasing persecution. Facing the potential loss of all her hopes and dreams, would Christ be enough?” We read this for one of my book clubs, and it’s a scary thought about what it could mean if we take God out of our country. The author is a friend of a friend and she attended our book club meeting to share about how she came to write this book. I don’t often share my faith here on my website, but this book made me stop and think about the direction our government is going, removing more and more our ability to worship God. Or to worship in any religion. Will this book ever make waves in the book world? Probably not. My copy may be a pre-edited version, as it contained numerous typos and formatting errors. But they didn’t detract from the subject, just the cosmetics. The book doesn’t come to a resolution; in fact it leaves you hanging, as some books do. It was intentional (obviously), but left me wondering about the “end of the story.”

Also just finished reading The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Read The German Girl: A Novel by Correa. It chronicles the story of a wealthy German Jewish family in Berlin, as the Nazis arrive and make life a living hell. The family is lucky (I guess you could say this) to be allowed to purchase passage on the M.S. St. Louis, a passenger liner, to take them to “the Americas.” The destination is actually Cuba. The story is told from two voices – the teenage daughter in this story, and from a current-day distant family member who is trying to learn about her ancestry. Of the 900+ passengers on the ship, only a few were allowed to disembark since the Cuban President decided he needed more money to accept them. Most families had no money left, as the Reich had taken nearly all of their assets. The daughter and her very eccentric mother were allowed to stay in Cuba.  The remaining passengers are rejected by the U.S. too, and eventually return to Europe, where most of the Jews end up dying in concentration camps. The story goes back and forth from the 1939 journey to current day as the link between the two women is slowly revealed. I had a tough time sometimes, tracking the people in this book, but the story was very riveting. It’s based on facts about the ship (see Wikipedia link above if you’re interested). A shameful chapter in history.

Recently finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome (the Pope) – he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of Margaret of York (a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine),  who was a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or the curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Salads, on September 17th, 2014.

minted_watermelon_feta_salad

A couple of days ago I decided I needed to do some administrative housekeeping for the blog. There were a lots of photos from the last couple of months. Some I’d meant to update on the blog – photos from a long time ago (pictures that were barely worthy of posting). I keep all the photos (the ones you see and the ones that I start with, the mega-pixel ones that I crop and adjust to fit within this blog width, etc.) but every few months I transfer them off to CDs.

Anyway, I’d taken a photo of this salad and was going to update it here on the blog and realized that technically speaking I’d never actually posted the RECIPE. I’d included a link to a Martha Stewart page, which I discovered isn’t even THERE anymore. So, obviously I needed to give you this post because this salad is one of my Favs. It’s so incredibly easy. It’s seriously delish and off the charts when watermelon is in season. My DH adored this salad – it has the sweet (watermelon) and the savory (feta cheese) and the hint of mint. Do use fresh mint. I mentioned it last week when I told you about what I’ve eaten lately. I don’t even use a recipe – you can adjust it to  your tastes – it’s just watermelon, feta crumbled up and some mint. That’s IT.

So, how am I? The last week has been pretty good. I’ve been very, very busy, and as a widow, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t leave me much time to mope around. I’m definitely still grieving, and by saying that it doesn’t mean that I don’t still have plenty of time to consider my new single-ness, my widowhood. I think about that every day. I’m writing this on Monday. Yesterday (Sunday) I was invited to my/our son’s home (actually his sister-in-law’s) for dinner. I had a lovely evening with them and a delicious dinner of Pasta Bolognese. And when I got in the car to drive home, well, it was dark, of course, and I just remembered all the times Dave and I had driven home from their home. It made me cry. Sometimes the car is where I cry. There was no one to hear me. I wasn’t crying so hard I couldn’t drive, but I just re-lived good memories, but they still, at this point in my healing, make me sad. I wanted Dave to be beside me in the car.

I’d taken a bottle of Chianti for the dinner. Before I went, I’d gone down into the wine cellar and looked over the choices in the Italian section. There weren’t a lot, actually, but one was a gift and I knew Darci, who had given it to us in 2006, wouldn’t have chosen a blah or cheap wine. It was wonderful. Dave had written notes on the back label – the fact that it was a gift from Darci in 2006. I enjoyed it and had some with dinner. I wished Dave had been there at the table. He’d have been all-over that wine, talking about it. It had no harsh edges at all. It was 11 years old, which is probably OLD for a Chianti. In the car, he and I would have been talking about the dinner, about the antics of our grandson, Vaughan, and his cousin Sebastian, about Julian’s Bolognese and Janice’s fabulous beet salad that often graces their dinner table. The two boys have just started school, so there was some discussion about that. Vaughan has just lost two teeth (his first) and was visited by the international tooth fairy. He’s received Bermuda dollars and Israeli shekels. He feels quite special that he’s being visited by an international tooth fairy. Dave and I would have chuckled over that part. I’ve promised Karen I’ll dig around in my travel drawer and find the big envelope of international money I have so she can be prepared when he loses his next tooth. I know I have some Egyptian money, some Turkish too.

So, I cried. And felt sorry for myself. Which is altogether normal. But I just tried to change the subject in my head. Thinking about this week. About the things I need to do today. I’m having cataract surgery this week, and again a month from now on the other eye. My friend Cherrie has broken a bone in her foot. She was going to take care of me, maybe with me even staying at their house overnight, but she can barely get around, so my friend Joan is taking me. These days cataract surgery is so easy – a few hours after the surgery (back at home) I will remove the patch (to use special drops) and at that point I can leave the patch off, except at night (so I don’t accidentally nudge my eye somehow). I’m participating in a clinical trial for eye drops that are supposed to enhance healing. I’m using these drops every day, twice a day. Then I have 3 other drops that must be used 4x a day. I may be receiving the placebo – I’ll never know. But for the participation, I get $800. I have to make 4 extra visits to the eye clinic to do this. But hey, that’s many really nice dinners out. And once I’m done with both surgeries, I may be able to not wear glasses the rest of my life! Since I’ve worn them since I was about 18, that’s pretty darned special. I may have to wear readers.

My weekend was spent at our church nearly the entire time at a choir retreat. It was grueling. I don’t know exactly how many hours we rehearsed music – probably about 11 hours, I think. My voice is still raspy today. It started Friday night at 5:30 and ended on Sunday at 1:30. Food was provided for Friday dinner, 2 lunches, plus snacks. I’m just glad it’s over with!

So, back to this salad. Do make it. Do use really tasty, ripe watermelon. If you open the watermelon and it’s somewhat blah, don’t bother – this salad won’t be all that good. The recipe is already listed on my Favs list, but I’ll now update the link so it actually comes to THIS post. And I’m giving you the MasterCook files and a pdf.

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Minted Watermelon and Feta Salad

Recipe By: Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Living, 7/08
Serving Size: 4

2 1/2 pounds red watermelon — seedless
2 ounces Feta cheese — crumbled
1/2 teaspoon Maldon salt
3 tablespoons fresh mint — sliced

1. Using a sharp knife, cut off rinds from watermelons. (You should have a total of 2 pounds peeled fruit.) Quarter each melon, and then cut into 3-inch-long, 1/4-inch-thick slices. (Or cut into any shapes you’d prefer.) Arrange slices on a serving platter.
2. Crumble the feta over watermelon. Sprinkle with salt and mint, and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 39 Calories; 3g Fat (69.0% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 13mg Cholesterol; 426mg Sodium.

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  1. janet carroll

    said on September 17th, 2014:

    Carolyn…. it is always so refreshing and real to read your blog. Even though your feelings are so deep and grieving and full of sadness, I cannot help but think that it is good for you to write about them. And more importantly, share them. Thank you.

    I still have some posts coming up. I’m just not on a regular schedule, I guess. Maybe I’ll get back to it eventually. Thanks for your kind words. . . carolyn t

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on September 25th, 2014:

    You’ll understand why I will not be making this salad except if I ever meet a real watermelon.

    I wiss you well for the cataract surgery and hope that you will be free of glasses except for reading.

    I echo Janet’s sentiment and send you virtual hugs. xx

    Thank you! Cataract surgery went well. Having lots of difficulty with this interim time between the 2 surgeries trying to read anything close-up like my cell phone, a book or the computer screen. Patience is a virtue, I know. Hard for me! thanks for the virtual hugs . . . carolyn t

  3. Toffeeapple

    said on September 25th, 2014:

    BTW, I have been in Argyll, south western Scotland which is why I am so late responding.

    How fun, Toni – hope the trip was fun and not too much rain. I don’t know exactly where Argyll is. Have been to Scotland twice (beautiful). Love the Lochs. . . carolyn t

  4. yvette

    said on September 26th, 2014:

    Hi Carolyn,
    Next time you make this watermelon salad, try using ricotta salata
    cheese instead of the feta. It is an Italian cheese made from the
    whey part of sheep milk, which is pressed, salted and aged for at least 90 days. It is firm in texture. Cannot be found at Vons, or TJ. but can always be
    found at Whole Food. I love it with the watermelon and mint.

    I love ricotta salata. I can buy it at Bristol Farms – don’t know if my Whole Foods has it. I agree, though, it should be great with it. Thanks for the suggestions. . . carolyn

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