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Currently Reading



Sara and me

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Currently reading Laura Frantz’s book, Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is as close as western Pennsylvania. The warring native Americans play large in this book. There is a romance, yes, but this book is not “a romance.” It’s more than that – about the hardships of living on the land, away from protection, Tessa and her family struggle to make a living and avoid the angered natives who take revenge when their people are murdered. Clay Tygart is a respected officer/soldier and commands a fort near where Tessa lives. Clay was captured by Lanape Indians when he was a young man, so he straddles both sides of the equation – first hand, he knows how the natives feel, but also his role in the lure of American exploration of the west. The natives wish to preserve their hunting grounds from the encroaching settlers. This book takes place in the mid-1700s I think. I’m loving it. Not only the history that is brilliantly detailed, even to the summer heat they experience. The crops they raise, the constant fear of attack. And the sweet love that weaves through it. Not a speck of sex in it.

Reading mysteries has never loomed large in my reading life. Occasionally, yes. And some espionage type books. But light mysteries have not intrigued me much. But one of my book clubs had us read Louise Penny’s novel, A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel). The member actually handed out a cheat sheet of the characters in the book (many) and posed several questions of us as we read through it. The cheat sheet really helped. She asked us when (or if) we caught the foreshadowing of the murder culprit (I never did). The book takes place at a lovely inn in Canada and Chief Inspector Gamache (he is quite a character – along with his wife – are vacationing there) when a murder occurs. None of the characters escape the C.I.’s scrutiny. Lois, our book club member, led us through a very thorough and lively discussion of the book. Usually, my complaint about murder mysteries is that they don’t make for good discussion at a book club – but this book was an exception, for sure. Many of my learned book club friends rave about Louise Penny. One told me I should read Still Life next, and probably should have read it before I read this one.

Rachel Hauck is an author I’ve enjoyed reading over the years. Just finished reading The Memory House. It’s about relationships. Love. About family. About secrets. Doesn’t that just describe about 90% of every novel out there these days? Beck is a cop in NYC; a series of events occur and she is forced to take leave. Just then she inherits a house in Florida. She barely remembers the woman who bequeathed the house to her. Then you meet Bruno, a sports agent who will figure large in Beck’s life. Then the book jumps back in time to Everleigh, the woman who owned the house and you learn her story. Really stories of her two husbands. And how do those stories connect to present day. Very sweet book. Not a speck of sex in this one, either.

The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger. Such an interesting book – nonfiction. The author is an ornithologist by profession (and a PhD) and this memoir of sorts is about her Red-Lored Amazon parrot she and her husband own. But no, it’s the parrot who owns her/them.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. A book club friend recommended this book, I immediately bought it on my Kindle. I could NOT put the book down. I devoured it. Any other “work” I should have been doing was swept aside as I read and read of Resolute’s adventures. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

Finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel by Kim Richardson.  It’s a novel about the first mobile library in Kentucky (this is the 1930s) and the fierce, brave packhorse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and, just as importantly, a compassionate human connection.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This book was offered as a bargain book from Bookbub, and something about the description resonated with me – maybe because of my Old Testament readings regarding the lives of shepherds back in ancient days. I utterly loved this book. It might not suit everyone – it’s a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. He bickers with his father, eventually moves out. One night in a pub with his blokes (friends) he enters some kind of a contest in the pub and realizes he has a lot more knowledge than he thought he did. In time he applies to get what I’d call here in the U.S. a G.E.D (high school diploma), which he does, and then he applies to Oxford, on a whim. And gets in. He graduates. He applies his knowledge to his rural life. He marries, has children, but still, his day to day life is all about his Herdwick sheep, although he does have a day job too working for UNESCO. You’ll learn more about sheep than you might have wanted to know. I absolutely loved, LOVED this book. If you are interested, James Rebanks has a Twitter feed, called @herdyshepherd1, and you can sign up to get updates from him about his farm and his sheep. I don’t do Twitter or I would.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation. So it is with surprise that she finds in this cold and bitter country the capacity for new love and perhaps even a new home. I just loved this book – could hardly put it down; yet it’s not a mystery. You’ll come away with a desire to find that house by the fjord. I want to go there and have some coffee with the Anna, who was a Brit, yet fell head over heels in love with Norway.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s.  Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? When I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? I marvel sometimes about how authors ever come up with the ideas they do, to create the premise for a novel. And this one is right up there at the top of the list. Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who has a big lack of self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. He discovers she’s blind and needs some help, which he gives her.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3)by Francine Rivers.

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

Answer As a Man

Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel).

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. A

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. W

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.


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 Salads, Veggies/sides, on January 24th, 2008.

Do you sometimes forget how good vegetables can taste? I forget about all the variations on vegetables. I need a little memory jog now and then to remind myself that there’s more than one way to make cauliflower. Or broccoli. Or zucchini. Or. Or. Or. It could go on and on.

And surely I forget about using carrots – in a raw form, other than eating out of hand. So I was reading Fresh Catering (a blog I read regularly) and Rachael had made this carrot-ginger slaw. Well, my eyes and nose perked up and I immediately printed out the recipe. I had everything on hand except the fresh ginger. But I had some in a bottle, which I’m sure wasn’t AS good, but this salad was so refreshing (next time I really will have the fresh ginger). I have Italian parsley in my garden, but I had an abundance of cilantro in my refrigerator, so I used cilantro instead. DH loved it. So did I. And it took a maximum of about 7 minutes to make it. Literally. That part I liked a lot. And it was better than having another – yet another – green salad. Don’t get me wrong, I love green salads. Really I do. But there’s a tedium about making green salad. And I like homemade dressing too, which adds to the hassle.

When my daughter, Dana, was a little tyke, she first learned how to bake cookies. That’s probably universal in this day and age. Children and cookies just go together like peas in a pod. Or puppies and little boys. Once she got a bit older I began teaching her about knife skills. Probably when she turned 8 or so, and I thought she was mature enough to hold and wield a dull knife.

Initially, she was thrilled with her new-found skills and independence. She liked helping in the kitchen, and was very proud of her accomplishments. But the interest began to wane in the years to follow. I was a working mom, had to get dinner on the table in fast order, so setting the table and making a salad was what helped me the most. She wasn’t old enough or tall enough really to master a spatula and frying pan at the hot stove, or many other things with hot pots and pans, so the salad making was the best choice. As she got older still she began to dislike making a salad unless it was just chopped lettuce. I like lots of vegetables in my salads. Back then it was mostly carrots, celery, green onions, tomatoes and peppers. Now I add lots of other things like fennel, Feta crumbles, sugar snap peas, nuts, even. But she didn’t enjoy the chopping and cutting anymore, probably because it was so repetitive.

Here’s the salad maker now, a picture taken when we were at Dana and Todd’s house over Christmas – she’s 39 now. When I was 39, she was 13, going on 30. But that’s another story. Now she makes salads all the time for her family. And mostly they’re just lettuce. Her kids don’t much like eating raw vegies. They look at salad as merely a vehicle for consuming ranch dressing. But Dana thoroughly enjoys all the homemade dressings. When we talked on the phone the other day she was busily making her favorite of my dressings, the VIP Salad Dressing, which I posted last year. It may have been my very first posting on this-here blog. Or one of the first. And that dressing is still one of my very favorites too.

Last summer Dana’s two children were here to visit for awhile, and the 10-year old, Taylor, was anxious to help me in the kitchen, so I taught her how to make salad. How about that. What goes around, comes around. Dana was a bit in shock when I told her I’d taught Taylor how to use a sharp knife. She did just fine, sweetie! Mom knows all. That’s a bit of an inside family joke if you didn’t get it. Dana reads my blog every day, so am certain I’ll be hearing from her about that! Anyway, I just listened to someone on the radio the other day, that most children, when they reach about 7 or 8, are old enough to learn how to use a knife in the kitchen.So, I’ve rambled on far too long here. Telling family stories. Suffice that this not-green-salad is a good one, a keeper, but probably not one for children to make unless an adult grates the carrots and ginger. Other than that, children could likely do all the rest. If it’s a kid-making deal, maybe start them out with green salad and teach them some knife skills.
printer-friendly PDF

Carrot Ginger Slaw

Recipe: Fresh Approach blog
Servings: 6

6 whole carrots — peeled
1 cup chopped parsley
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground Szechuan peppercorns
3 tablespoons fresh ginger — grated – use a Microplane
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Sesame seeds and more parsley for garnish

1. Using the large holes on your box grater (or the shredder disc on a food processor), shred the peeled carrots.
2. Toss that with the parsley.
3. In another bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, Szechuan pepper, ginger (and the juice), mayo and sesame oil. Taste and adjust to your taste.
4. Stir that into the carrots, let rest for a few moments, garnish and serve.
Per Serving: 135 Calories; 10g Fat (64.9% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 3mg Cholesterol; 345mg Sodium.
Printer-friendly recipe, click HERE.

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  1. Rachael

    said on January 24th, 2008:

    I’m super excited you liked this, it always makes me happy to see someone make one of my recipes! And even happier when it works! 😉


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