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Just finished reading 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 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.

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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