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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 Miscellaneous, on November 16th, 2007.


Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been planning the Thanksgiving menu the last couple of days. We’re excited that we’ll have all three of our children here, with all 5 grandchildren too, who range in age from one infant up to age 13. Plus some other extended family too. That will make a table for 16, which is two more than our table can accommodate, so we’ll probably have to set up a small table for the children nearby.

Everyone is bringing something, so that makes my job easier. I’m grateful for the help. I’ve always thought that Thanksgiving dinner is one of the most labor intensive there is, of the entire year. So much of it has to be done at the last minute – the potatoes, the gravy, the salad, etc. But I heard a suggestion the other day – potatoes hold real well in a crock pot. Just make them several hours ahead, preheat the crock pot and throw the entire batch in, cover, and it will hold for many hours. Sounds like a plan to me.

So, listen up . . . that’s the phrase I seem to use when I’m about to share something important. I’m going to give you my prized (well, no, I haven’t really won a prize for it, it’s just prized by me!) recipe for cranberry relish. My mother introduced cranberry relish to our family’s Thanksgiving table back in the late 1950’s I think. It was just the chopped cranberries (and I was often the one who had to sit and hand chop the cranberries – very tedious, I might add), and minced orange, including some of the peel, with sugar. I made it that way for years. Until one year I saw a recipe in a magazine, I think, that mentioned adding apple and ground ginger. I love ginger and what it does for baked goods and other things too. I tried it, and it’s become the regular on my Thanksgiving table ever since. Over the years I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit – reduced the sugar a tad, and added more ginger. And I think the original recipe called for 2 apples, but I preferred the single one. So that’s why I call this a Carolyn original. I have no recollection where I first saw the recipe including the apple and ginger, so I can’t given any credit for it.

This keeps for about a month, and is wonderful added to a turkey sandwich, or as a chutney type side with grilled meat. But it seems to have its strongest affinity to poultry. I can eat this straight out of the container, I like it so much. Just remember to make this a day ahead, if at all possible. It takes several hours for the flavors to blend AND for the sugar to do its magic with the fruit, drawing out the juices.
printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC – 14 contains photo)

Cranberry Relish with a Zip

Recipe: This is a Carolyn original
Servings: 10
NOTES: Cranberry relish has always been a favorite of mine, and I’ve made a bunch of different kinds over the years. But, this is my favorite, with just a bit of tartness. It’s also wonderful with grilled meats – pork chops, chicken and even steak.

12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 large apple — cored
1 large orange — with peel, chopped
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup sugar

1. You may use fresh cranberries, if available. If you’ve frozen them, just defrost before starting relish.
2. In a food processor, whiz up the cranberries first. Do not allow them to turn to mush. Scrape out into a bowl. Do the same with the apple, leaving the peel on, and add to cranberries. Cut orange into many small pieces, peel and all and do the same. Be careful there aren’t any large pieces left in the workbowl. Add ginger and sugar to the mixture, stir well and refrigerate for a few hours.
2. Will keep for about a month before spoiling.
Per Serving: 90 Calories; trace Fat (1.4% calories from fat); trace Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1mg Sodium.

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  1. Anonymous

    said on November 18th, 2007:

    I made your relish today and was extremely happy with the results. That addition of ginger just adds a little bite that I love. It is now ready for Thanksgiving day–if I can stay out of it! Thanks. Jancd

  2. Carolyn T

    said on November 20th, 2007:

    Am so glad you liked the result. Hope your family enjoys it too.

  3. kari b

    said on November 21st, 2007:

    On a roll right now. Have the Lemon Cake in the oven and made a double batch of the Cranberry Relish. I LOVE the relish. I dont know that it will make it to Thanksgiving! Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Carolyn T

    said on November 21st, 2007:

    I’m glad to be able to share this recipe. I love it too!

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