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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 aging 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, wealthy women) 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.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

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 Uncategorized, on October 11th, 2017.

I’m thanking my lucky stars, and praising God that my home is intact. You may have read or seen clips on TV about the fires here in California. The Northern California fires have been far worse (homes, shopping centers and many people still missing and many lost) than our one here in Southern California, but devastating nonetheless. I was evacuated on Monday. They finally lifted it last night (Tuesday). I actually returned home late Monday night because I felt safe enough to return, although technically I was in a mandatory evacuation area. The road I used to get home wasn’t blocked off as many others were. I live south of that red blob above and as the fires spread, destroying homes and stables and outbuildings in an area called Orange Park Acres, they extended the evacuation zone, and I was in it. I grabbed a few things: 3 of my paintings, some valuables, my kitty, some clothes, my favorite pillow, medications, passport, cat food, litter box, kitty’s favorite blanket and went to stay with my daughter-in-law’s sister and her husband, who live about 15 miles away, south and west, far from the smoke and raging fire.

I stayed put at home yesterday, all day, watching news reports and refreshing the online fire map on my computer. If I’d left, I wouldn’t have been allowed back to my house. This fire spread so fast, they couldn’t update the maps fast enough. Dozens of my friends were evacuated also, and they’d spread far and wide to friends so they didn’t have to go to a shelter. High praise goes to all the firefighters who risked their lives to save homes. I think I heard that only 8 homes were totally destroyed, but hundreds are damaged and partially burned. The fire started up at the top right corner of that red zone (cause unknown at this point). It was a hot day, we had Santa Ana winds (high winds that blow in from the desert), the temperature was in the low 90’s, and the humidity was under 10% – prime conditions for a brush fire, perhaps from a thrown cigarette butt, since the origin was just beside a freeway, a main east/west artery in our region. The fire is still raging, but it’s going east, into the Cleveland National Forest, off to the right of that red blob. A favorite wilderness park was totally destroyed, along the eastern edge of the red blob. It’s a favorite for hikers and walkers. There is still residual smoke in the air

So, I lost more than a day in my quest to put away stuff from my termite tenting. I’m going to get on that today, I hope. But I’m feeling quite overwhelmed, actually with that task. And to make matters worse, my hot water heater that supplies hot water to my kitchen, has died. My plumber is going to install a small tankless one, but not until next week. Sigh. So I’m keeping my electric tea kettle going as I need to do dishes. Paper plates are the name of the game this week.

Thankfully, I’m fine, and my house is fine. My kitty still feels a bit discombobulated, though, as he’s “off” his food a bit and wants more attention than usual. But we’re alive and well, all things considered.

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  1. Joan

    said on October 11th, 2017:

    I’m so glad you’re okay. You’ve had so much stress the last several days.

    Yes, I have, but nothing compared to what’s still going on in Northern California. 3500 homes destroyed as of this morning’s news. And loss of life to many. I’m very grateful to be okay. . . carolyn t

  2. Carol Wegner

    said on October 12th, 2017:

    What a strange feeling to be living in an evacuation area in Northern California and watch your old neighborhood being evacuated a day later. We lived in Orange Park Acres near Irvine park prior to moving to the unincorporated area of Santa Rosa, near the small town of Graton. The fires have been devastating. It’s heartbreaking to see friends and coworkers lose their homes. We are so thankful to be safe in our home. We are praying that they will begin to get this fire contained soon.

    I was just listening to the devastating news about your NorCal fire. Terrible devastation and loss of lives. And 3500 homes, so far. Glad you’re okay!! . . . carolyn t

  3. Toffeeapple

    said on October 12th, 2017:

    What a frightening position to be in, you certainly did not need that extra stress did you? I hope that you manage to get all your things back into place soon and then you will be able to relax.

    Not much resting going on here. I have managed to get my refrigerators and freezers back in order, and am currently working on my walk-in pantry. I have about 50 jars of herbs and those have all been put away in alphabetical order so I can find them. They were that way before, but when they were packaged up, they were just tossed into a big bag. Haven’t unearthed the bag containing spices yet. They are somewhere in the 15 bags I have yet to open. Am going to a cooking class today, so I’ll be resting there, but as soon as I get home I hope to have the get-up-and-go to do more work in the pantry. Still have lots of stuff stored at my neighbor’s also. . . carolyn t

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