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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.

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Posted in Desserts, on December 24th, 2016.

apple_pie_cake_rum_sauce

Comfort food. Winter warmth. Rum. Whipped Cream. Nothing there NOT to like.

This recipe has been hanging around in my to-try file for awhile. It’s one that Marie posted on her blog, The English Kitchen. She has some really wonderful comfort food desserts on her blog, and this one is no exception. With 8 people coming for a bible study I whipped this up, made the simple rum sauce and whipped up some sweetened heavy cream. It barely served 8 – should have made a larger one, or two perhaps, but as it was, each person had a small portion, which was sufficient.

A simple cake batter is made (with a tad of hot water added in), then you add in all the chopped apples and spread that out into a greased pie plate. Use a large pie plate – 9” if you have one. It bakes for 45 minutes or so. It could be served warm or at room temp. The sauce is simple enough – butter, brown sugar, butter, heavy cream and some rum or rum flavoring. I used spiced rum. The sauce makes a lot more than you’ll need for the cake – I’d suggest you make half. I sent the sauce home with one of the families that came – it would be nice on ice cream or pudding.

apple_pie_cake_bakedThe pie cake came together very easily – you could make it without the sauce, but it was so good on it. No, you should make the sauce! And it takes very little time to make – heat the ingredients (without the rum), let it boil a couple of minutes without boiling over (watch it), then remove from heat and add the rum. Set aside to cool. Thanks, Marie, for a really delicious recipe.

What’s GOOD: it’s a nice, tasty, apple-y, sweet cake with lots of apples in it. It’s definitely a cake, just served in a pie shape. Loved the sauce (very sweet, however) and the dollop of whipped cream was a must in my book.

What’s NOT: not a thing – a nice treat.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Apple Pie Cake with a Brown Sugar and Rum Sauce

Recipe By: The English Kitchen blog, 2012
Serving Size: 7

2 ounces butter — softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup all purpose flour — sifted
2 tablespoons hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large Granny Smith apples — peeled, cored and chopped (about 3 cups)
SAUCE:
1/4 cup light brown sugar — packed
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter — softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon rum — or 1/2 tsp rum flavoring
Whipped Cream, sweetened, to serve on top

NOTES: I have reduced the sauce quantity by half – if you want some left over, double it.
1. Preheat the oven to 350*F. Butter and flour a 9 inch pie dish very well. Set aside.
2. Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar and the egg. Combine the flour, salt, cinnamon and grated nutmeg. Stir into the creamed mixture, along with the water and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Stir in the chopped apple. Spoon the batter into the prepared pie dish. Smooth the top and then bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
3. SAUCE: combine the two sugars, cream and butter in a small saucepan. Heat and stir over medium low heat until the butter is melted. Bring to the boil and allow to boil for one minute only. Remove from the heat, stir in the rum. Serve warm or at room temperature with the cake.
4. Cut the cake into wedges to serve. Top each wedge with some sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.
Per Serving: 397 Calories; 16g Fat (35.1% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 62g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 73mg Cholesterol; 287mg Sodium.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on December 24th, 2016:

    I shall take this opportunity to wish you a Happy Christmas and an exciting new year!

    Thank you, Toni. I appreciate your faithful reading here at my blog! Hope you had a lovely Christmas too, and that 2017 will be blessed and fun-filled. . . carolyn t

  2. Marie from Chester

    said on December 26th, 2016:

    So happy you enjoyed this Carolyn! That made my day. Thank you so much for the lovely Christmas card which we got from you. I must apologise as I did not get any cards out this year. Todd’s illness has knocked us for a loop. The hormone therapy and now radiation has knocked the stuffing out of both us with much to-ing and fro-ing to hospitals, etc. We will get on top of it however and remain very hopeful. I hope that you have a lovely and blessed Christmas filled with lots of love and pockets of joy, happiness and peace. God bless! xoxo

    Blessings to you and Todd as well. Take care of the Toddster . . . I know it takes a bit of doing. My Dave went through it – you WILL get through it, with God’s help. . . much love and hugs to you, Marie. . . carolyn t

  3. hddonna

    said on December 28th, 2016:

    It’s a bit late, but as there are twelve days of Christmas, let me add my wishes for a blessed Christmas, too. I’ve thought of you, but Christmas was chaos here, with all 6 grandchildren (aged 4 mo. to 8) and their parents and it was followed by several of us getting a 24-hour bug–at least it waited mostly until the festivities were over. Marie does have some lovely recipes on her site. I’ve got several favorites in my files from her. This looks like a winner, too.

    Thank you, Donna. That’s so sweet of you. Yes, I had a lovely, blessed Christmas with my family. Got home yesterday and now I’m trying to take down all the Christmas stuff and get back to normal! Sorry to hear you caught a bug – that was no fun since it must have traveled amongst you. Hope you’re better now. . . carolyn t

  4. hddonna

    said on December 29th, 2016:

    Yes, I’m better, thanks, as are the others who got it. Am still enjoying my Christmas tree during what Victor P. Hass called “that warm little hollow between Christmas and New Year’s.” (I believe he was quoting someone else, but don’t remember who it was.)
    By the way, I’m having my daughter and her husband for dinner on New Year’s Day, and we’re having those scallops with blood orange gastrique from your site. Have only ever made it for my husband and me, but I know they will love it!

    I’m starting to put away Christmas now. The trees are down (I have two artificial trees that are fully decorated and ribboned and lighted that are as easy as pie for me to put up). Those are put away, but now I’ve got to work on removing all my inside decorations. Maybe this afternoon I’ll get started on that. Glad you’re going to enjoy those scallops. Easy and so very tasty with the orange stuff with it. . . carolyn t

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