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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by 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. 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 angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. 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.


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 Brunch, on December 14th, 2007.

It was one Christmas about 10+ years ago and I needed some kind of fruit to serve with Christmas morning’s breakfast. I always try to have food partially prepared ahead of time. I didn’t want to be stuck in the kitchen cutting up fresh fruit while everybody else was around the tree passing presents around, and missing out on the joy of all that. So I found this recipe for a spiced fruit, and having prepared it several times I’ve made a few changes to it, but haven’t tinkered too much with the basic concoction. It’s mostly canned fruit, you combine it and let it marinate for a couple of days, then I usually add in some sliced apples the night before or the morning of. It can be served hot or cold. It might depend on what you’re serving for breakfast as to which you’d want. I usually serve it cold, since it’s a nice contrast to whatever hot breakfast dish I’m serving.

Because my DH is a diabetic, I always use Splenda or some kind of artificial sweetener for part of it. He really enjoys this side dish, so I like to make it so he can enjoy a little bit of it. I’ve tried to make it with all Splenda, but it doesn’t taste right, so I just use some Splenda. By all means, use all sugar if you’re able to.

Just remember that it should be made ahead (a good thing in my book) and you can vary the canned fruit you add to it. Don’t use soft fruits (like apricots) because after a week or so they kind of become mush. I have used canned cherries, but the juice is dark and it colors the liquid significantly. I prefer a clear juice. I’m not making Christmas breakfast this year, so don’t have a photo of it. I found the one above on the internet.
printer-friendly PDF

Spiced Fruit

Serving Size: 12

1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
29 ounces canned pears — light syrup
29 ounces peach slices — canned, light syrup
16 ounces canned pineapple chunks — in own juice
8 ounces prunes — dry pack, pitted
1 large cinnamon stick
8 whole cloves
3 packages Splenda (or use more sugar)

1. In small saucepan combine vinegar, sugar, cinnamon stick and cloves and bring to boil and simmer until sugar is completely dissolved and spices have had some time to blend. Allow to cool slightly. In a large refrigerator container (with lid) pour the juices from all of the fruit, stir, add artificial sweetener, then add the pickling mixture. Add canned fruit and stir.
2. Cover and store in refrigerator. Will keep for several weeks (maybe even months). If you served just the fruit and almost no juice, you should be able to just add more canned fruit without remaking the pickling mixture.
Per Serving: 169 Calories; 1g Fat (5.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 14mg Sodium.

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  1. Aamer Waqas Ghaus Chaudhary

    said on December 14th, 2007:

    Yummy all these!
    Wish my wife could make all these!

  2. Carolyn T

    said on December 15th, 2007:

    Aamer – maybe YOU could learn to cook yourself? Choose one of the easier ones and try it out!

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