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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 Cookies, on January 12th, 2017.

lemon_wedding_cookies

These were cookies my friend Cherrie made the day we did a marathon Christmas cookie bake day. We only did 4 types of cookies last month – usually we do 5-6, but whew, that’s just too much.

Cherrie found this recipe at King Arthur Flour, and she was intrigued because of the lemon. We always make the Mexican Wedding cookies (same type, without lemon), but the lemon part added a really lovely flavor.

Ours (hers – I was making a different cookie a few feet away but watched her) didn’t come out as round as the unflavored ones, but surely it doesn’t matter. The recipe online calls for an ingredient we didn’t have – lemon juice powder. It sounds wonderful – a way to add concentrated lemon flavor without having to juice lemons. It is a sweetened product (with corn syrup) but it’s dry – a powder. You don’t use very much of it, so I may order it next time. We did without it. Am certain our cookies weren’t quite a lemony as the ones made with the powder added, but they’re pretty darned good the way they are.

These are simple to mix up – ample butter, of course, no eggs, but powdered sugar inside and outside. The lemon juice powder is combined with the powdered sugar for the coating (if you use it). They’re baked and are just a one-bite wonder. Delicious. The recipe indicated it made 50-60. Uh . . . no, it made about 32, so next time we’d definitely double the recipe. In fact, I think when I finish the recipe, I’ll double it for you – because 32 cookies definitely aren’t enough!

What’s GOOD: the lovely, but subtle lemon flavor. Love the texture of these anyway – light, crumbly and just one bite. Definitely a keeper. They’re small.

What’s NOT: rolling these in powdered sugar is a bit of a pain, but it doesn’t take all that long. Worth making anyway.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Lemon Snowball Cookies

Recipe By: King Arthur Flour, 2011
Serving Size: 64

COOKIES:
2 cups unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt — if using salted butter, eliminate the salt
1 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon zest — or lemon oil
4 cups all-purpose flour
ROLLING SUGAR:
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice powder — a King Arthur product

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter and salt until soft and fluffy.
3. Mix in the confectioners’ or glazing sugar, and lemon oil or grated rind (zest).
4. Add the flour, mixing until well combined.
5. Form the dough into 1″ balls; a teaspoon cookie scoop is a real time-saver, and your cookies will be nice and uniform. Place the balls on an ungreased baking sheet.
6. Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes. They should be very light brown on the bottom, and feel set on top.
7. Remove the cookies from the oven. Let them cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes before disturbing; they’re very fragile when hot.
8. To finish the cookies: Sift the confectioners’ or glazing sugar with the lemon powder and place in a shallow pan. Roll the warm cookies in the sugar/lemon coating.
9. Let the cookies cool completely, then add edible glitter (if desired) to the coating and re-roll in the sugar. When completely cool, store cookies in airtight containers for 1 week, or freeze for longer storage.
Per Serving: 116 Calories; 6g Fat (44.8% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 18mg Sodium.

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  1. Elizabeth

    said on January 13th, 2017:

    Hi Carolyn–looks like you’ve found another winner–these cookies sound amazing! I’ve made the
    traditional ones for years but have never seen lemon! And also never heard of lemon juice powder–always something new!! I look forward to trying these as soon as possible–thank you!

    Your new kitty is adorable–she is so lucky to have found you to give her a home and teach her
    how to navigate! Love it! ????????

    Yes, the lemon snowballs are really delish. I think they were the first cookies to be devoured – but the recipe didn’t make all that many. Next time I’m sure we’ll double the quantity. . . carolyn t

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