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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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Posted in Brunch, on August 19th, 2015.

belgian_waffles_oatmeal

When I was in Colorado visiting my friends, Sue made these delicious (and healthy) oatmeal Belgian waffles one morning. They were so good. On top is defrosted frozen fruit. No syrup or butter needed.

As it so happens, I don’t own a Belgian waffle maker, but you can use a regular waffle iron for these. They’d be a little larger and also a little thinner. Sue’s grandchildren beg for these every time they have an overnight at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

It’s a typical waffle batter except that it calls for white whole wheat flour, and these contain some oatmeal, so they have a little bit more texture than traditional waffles. The recipe came from the Spark People (they’re a group of websites for healthy eating) and was submitted by someone who has a membership to the website. For 12 waffles you’ll use 1/4 cup of melted butter in the batter.

When Sue makes these, she makes all 12 waffles and freezes the left overs which can be quickly defrosted for another morning in the toaster oven. If you choose, you can use syrup and butter, but these are so tasty as is, you don’t need anything except some fruit. Thanks, Sue, for sharing the recipe.

What’s GOOD: these are healthy, with very little fat, and you can keep them extra low in calories if you use fruit instead of syrup and/or butter.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever!

printer friendly PDF – and – Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Oatmeal Buttermilk Belgian Waffles

Recipe By: Adapted from SparkPeople, by my friend Sue
Serving Size: 6

1 cup white whole wheat flour — (or use all-purpose)
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 dash salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup butter — melted (or vegetable oil)

1. In a large bowl combine all ingredients. Beat together with an electric mixer until blended.
2. Pour 3/4 cup batter onto hot Belgian waffle iron. Close lid and bake until steam stops and waffles are brown and crisp. (These can be made in a traditional waffle iron, but may require more batter and less time).
3. Keep waffles warm or on a rack in a low oven, or serve immediately. Serve with maple syrup, blueberry sauce, or frozen fruit (like strawberries, defrosted and mashed). Serve 2 per person. Left over waffles may be frozen and defrosted quickly in the oven set on low heat. They can be defrosted in the microwave, but you may have some hot spots and the time between frozen and defrosted is a few seconds (easy to defrost for too long).
Per Serving: 244 Calories; 11g Fat (42.0% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 94mg Cholesterol; 560mg Sodium.

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