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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 Essays, on March 4th, 2017.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you may remember that I included a pdf download many years ago, for exactly what temperature to grill meat. It didn’t include every possible grilled item, but it was a chart I still refer to often since I can’t seem to remember what fish needs to be when done, or even chicken breast vs. chicken thigh.

BUT, I read an article recently that totally opened up the skies with all kinds of various baked things. I’ve known for awhile that most baked goods need to cook to about 200° or possibly 190°. My new chart has it all. I’ve grouped it by types of food, mostly.

baking_roasting_grilling_chartHere’s a photo of it – don’t use it – go to the link below – I squeezed it down so it would fit here within my blog columns – so you can see what it looks like.

I also learned that a ground meat casserole only needs to be 165° to be cooked through. That’s a big help too. So, down below you’ll see a link to download the pdf and print it. It’s a one-page chart. Hope this helps you – I have mine in a plastic sleeve and it’s inside one of my kitchen cupboards – easy to reach for and refer to.

PRINTER-FRIENDLY PDF of the “Temperature Guide for Baking, Grill and Roasting.”

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  1. janet

    said on March 4th, 2017:

    What a great chart. Thank you.

    You’re welcome! . . . carolyn t

  2. hddonna

    said on March 5th, 2017:

    Thank you, Carolyn. This is going to be very useful. I’m especially pleased to have the target temps for baked goods.

    You’re welcome – I’m going to be using the chart a lot too. . . carolyn t

  3. Toffeeapple

    said on March 6th, 2017:

    Our electric ovens are all set to Centigrade! Gas ovens are marked from 1/4 to 12 though I haven’t used one of these for a very long time. Not that I can work out what my true oven temperature is anyway, it varies so much.

    I guess I should re-do the chart – or an extra page – showing the C temps. My friends (now gone) who lived in Ilminster, had an Aga, and I was quite enamored with it. We can buy them here, but they are extremely expensive. I loved all the different oven cubbies you could use (with doors) that were at different temps. . . carolyn t

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