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Just finished 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 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 parents were 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 a old 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.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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 Desserts, on August 24th, 2009.

plum cobbler strip

Oh my goodness gracious, was this ever good. Confession time here: I don’t know if I’ve ever made a plum cobbler. But this recipe may be the first, last and the only recipe I’ll ever use. I’d done a google search for plum recipes, went to the first result from and when I saw this title, well, that was all it took. I had about 8 really large California plums that needed to be eaten or used somehow. The recipe calls for 2 1/2 pounds – that was exactly what I had. If you have small plums, you’d best weigh them to make sure you have sufficient. This recipe could surely be halved easily enough, although half an egg is a bit of a problem!

The pitted and quartered plums are mixed in a bowl with some brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and lemon juice (I used lime, cuz that’s what I had). You pour them out into a baking dish (shallow, not deep). A few little bits of butter are dotted on the top. Then you mix in the processor some sugar (I used half Splenda), flour, baking powder, salt and almonds; then you add one egg and mix that. The mixture is gently sprinkled over the top of the plums. Gently pull a few of the plum quarters up, so a few of the ends are peeking through the streusel. A few more almonds are added to the top and the dish is baked for 45 minutes. Here’s what it looked like fresh out of the oven:

plum cobbler baked So, the prep probably took about 15 minutes max, baking was 45, and we were able to have a little scoop of it about 20 minutes later, with a little glug of heavy cream poured around it. Highly recommended!
printer-friendly PDF

Plum and Almond Cobbler (Easy)

Servings: 8

1/2 cup light brown sugar — firmly packed
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 lb plums — pitted, quartered
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — cut into bits
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1 large egg — lightly beaten

1. In a bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Add the plums, lemon juice and butter. Toss the mixture thoroughly and spoon into a shallow 3-quart baking dish.
2. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
3. In a food processor, pulse together the granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, and ½ cup of the sliced almonds until the almonds are finely ground.
4. Add the egg and pulse until blended.
5. Spoon the flour mixture over the plum mixture, bringing some plum wedges up for presentation.
6. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of almonds over the cobbler.
7. Bake in the middle of oven for 45 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Allow to cool on rack. Serve warm.
Per Serving: 370 Calories; 12g Fat (26.8% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 65g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 34mg Cholesterol; 209mg Sodium.

A year ago: Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese
Two years ago: Asparagus with Chile Butter

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  1. Kathleen Heckathorn

    said on August 24th, 2009:

    Carolyn, You have to go see the movie Julie and Julia if you haven’t already. Made me think of you. And me!

    Hi Kathleen – yes, Dave and I went to see it. I thought it was just fabulous. Dave even shed a tear at the end, along with me. Seeing them prepare food (they did make real food during the movie making) was fun. Some food bloggers have said that seeing it the 2nd time was even better – they picked up on many more things than the 1st time around. Hope it comes out in DVD soon. .. . carolyn t

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