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Just finished Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

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.


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 Chicken, on August 24th, 2016.


What do you think of when you hear “Greek marinade?” Lemon juice? Olive oil? Garlic? Yes, all of the above plus oregano. This recipe is more lemon juice than oil and enhanced with some red pepper flakes.

Recently I had a houseguest, Jennifer, who is vegan, but also doesn’t eat a lot of other things as well. I can’t say that it was exactly hard to cook for her, but it was a bit foreign to cook for her. My cousin was along too, and he must eat GF. So one night I made the pasta recipe I made not too long ago, Pasta alla Trapenese with Eggplant. But we had to eat it with lentil (GF) linguine. And because Jennifer was very interested in having more veggies in the dish, I added a bunch of other things, which totally diluted the flavor from the eggplant, which, to me, was the star of the dish. I couldn’t even taste the eggplant. And I’ll just tell you, I didn’t much like the lentil linguine. It was mushy and I cooked it less time than the box suggested. I count myself lucky that I’m not allergic to wheat.

So the next evening I made an old favorite created by Paul Prudhomme, The BEST Bean Salad, one that’s been on my blog for years. I didn’t fiddle with the recipe at all (it’s extremely low in fat). It was all Jennifer had for dinner except for an English muffin she microwaved with some fake shredded cheese (non-dairy and not soy based, either) on top. But Gary was craving some meat, I think, so I defrosted boneless, skinless chicken breasts and had wanted to try this Greek marinade anyway. The bean salad has very similar seasonings (lots of oregano), so the two dishes were a complement to one another.

The marinade was simple enough to make – I found the recipe over at Julie’s Lifestyle blog. I tinkered with her recipe just a tiny bit – all the main ingredients are there, I just slightly adjusted the amounts. It’s a wonderful combination – the lemon juice is the star of the show, and it shines through in the grilled result – I thought it was wonderful. I’m extremely careful when grilling chicken breasts (boneless) because they can go from moist and juicy, to dry and inedible in a matter of a minute or two. Use an instant read thermometer and take chicken breasts off at 150°F. If you use chicken thighs, they need to cook until they reach 165°F. If you’re combining both types, put the thighs on first, then the breasts during the last 6-8 minutes as they cook in no time at all.

What’s GOOD: the lemon flavor for sure. Cooked perfectly, to 150°F, they were SO juicy and tender. Easy.

What’s NOT: for some it would be cooking/grilling to that exact temperature – an instant read thermometer is a must here. If you don’t have one in your gadget arsenal, you need one!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Greek Marinade for Chicken

Recipe By: Recipe adpated from Julie’s Lifestyle (blog) 2016
Serving Size: 4

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves — minced
3 tablespoons oregano — reduce by 2/3 if using dried herbs
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley — reduce by 2/3 if using dried herbs
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Chicken: use boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs

1. Combine all the ingredients in a sealing plastic bag and mush around to combine.
2. Add chicken pieces [ I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts] to the bag and mush it around so all the chicken surfaces are covered in the marinade. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
3. Remove chicken and blot dry on paper towels. Discard marinade.
4. Heat an outdoor grill to high, then reduce temperature to medium. Using a oil-soaked paper towel, rub the grill so the chicken will be less likely to stick.
5. Place chicken pieces on the grill and cook until one side is golden brown. If the chicken sticks to the grate, leave it a bit longer – once the chicken has cooked sufficiently it should be loosened so you can lift it. Turn the chicken over and continue grilling, with cover closed, until the internal temperature of chicken breasts has reached 150° or if using chicken thighs, cook it to 165°F. Remove to a platter and allow to rest for about a minute, then serve. If you are vigilant about not overcooking the chicken (past 150°F or 165°F), you’ll be rewarded with very tender and moist chicken.
Per Serving (marinade only): 174 Calories; 17g Fat (84.1% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 3mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on August 28th, 2016:

    Did this Friday evening, and it was delicious. I was so careful–tested the temp and it was 136 to 140 or so in different pieces, then two minutes later I was getting 160 and 170 plus! I had added a teaspoon of salt to the marinade, and that apparently acted as a brine and helped keep them from drying out, for, amazingly, they were still moist and juicy! I really liked how simple this recipe was. We had the leftovers in toasted buns, with barbecue sauce, tomatoes, and lettuce. Very tasty!

    I’m so glad it worked out well. It’s SO hard to measure temperature in chicken because of the uneven thickness of them, even ones that have been pounded, supposedly, evenly. Probably another minute (instead of two) would have been enough. You’ll know next time! And yes, the recipe really is simple, and we need simple now and then! . . . carolyn t

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