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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 Beverages, on December 15th, 2015.

fireball_bottles

Truly, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, but I don’t frequent bars, liquor stores, big box liquor stores, and rarely even go down the aisle of wine and liquor at Costco – except to stock up on some Bailey’s now and then.

Then my friend Cherrie mentioned that one night when they were camping with a group of friends somebody brought out the Fireball. Having never heard of it and having heard her rave about it I bought a bottle. I thought it was something you mixed with something – – something – surely you don’t drink it straight? But yes she does. Over ice.

WHAT IS IT? It’s a Canadian whiskey somehow imbued with cinnamon and sugar, I suppose. It is very smooth. It’s also “hot.” It’s like drinking red hots with whiskey. Does that give you a clue? And it’s VERY smooth. It would have to be, otherwise I couldn’t drink it. Trust me on that! I’ve now discovered Fireball. So far I haven’t tried it with anything else – not with Rumchata, or 7-up, coffee, or Coca-Cola. There are websites about what to do with Fireball – other wild cocktails. I just can’t get past drinking it straight over ice.

Over Thanksgiving I casually mentioned it to my son-in-law, John, and to Sara, my daughter, who doesn’t drink hardly anything without falling asleep, and she sounded mildly intrigued. So John made a stop at a store one night I was there and must have asked where it was in the store . . . and said to the clerk “oh yea, I’ve gotta buy my mother-in-law some whiskey.” Anyone who knows me would know that’s so ludicrous because I drink almost nothing. But this Fireball. Well, I won’t say I’m hooked. I have one drink (an ounce) over ice and I’m done. And I definitely don’t have it every night. If I did that I suspect I’d get bored with it. So far, having one every 3-4 days, it’s still a treat and a taste sensation with the first sip.

John didn’t like it, and Sara didn’t like it either. We introduced it to Sara’s in-laws and no, they didn’t care for it. So now I have my own bottle plus the one John bought. In case you’ve not tried it – and in case you don’t like the taste of straight shots. This is more like a liqueur since it has a sweet tinge to it. It’s golden and is smooth. Now I have a drink I can order out. The drink has been around for a long time, but other than hearing the name of it, I’d certainly not tried it. It’s lovely . . . just so you know.

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  1. Katie Newman

    said on December 15th, 2015:

    Umm.. welcome to the club! I love Fireball, too. And you’ve described it perfectly — whiskey + red hots + sugar!! I agree, Quite lovely!

    Yup! The Fireball Club. I like it! . . .carolyn t

  2. Mary S

    said on December 15th, 2015:

    My uncle and my daughter (Michelle,) like Fireball. They sip the shot, Michelle shivers after she swallows, which I find comical. She says it tastes like the “Fireball” candies, we had as kids. I don’t like straight shots, so I have not tried Fireball. But because I loved/love those candies, and I like the idea of the liquor over ice, I am game. It will be a treat for the holiday.

    Thank you and Happy Holidays.

    Thanks, Mary. Hope you enjoy a sip. I certainly wasn’t prepared for liking it as much as I do. Merry Christmas to you. . . carolyn t

  3. Toffeeapple

    said on December 16th, 2015:

    I doubt I would like that, I hate the smell of whiskey. By the way, what are red hots?

    Hmmm. You don’t have red hots? They’re a tiny red candy, about the shape of an M&M, but smaller, and it’s cinnamon flavored. And as it dissolves it has a very strong cinnamon flavor with some heat. I haven’t had any since I was a child, but I suppose they’re still out there in the candy marketplace. They might be at my grocery store – I just don’t notice them because I never buy candy. And yes, I understand the aversion to whiskey – it has a powerful scent. I do like blended whiskey – it was my first alcoholic drink I ever had, mixed with 7-up. But by itself I don’t think I could sip it at all. It’s only because Fireball is sweetened a little bit, and it’s very smooth, that I’m able to drink it – and enjoy it. . . carolyn t

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