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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 Cookies, on May 6th, 2010.

In the last week I’d read on two independently-written blogs about Cinnamon Toast. And like many people, I think I did the same “oh yea, sure, you sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on buttered toast . . . what’s the big deal.” Well, let me tell you right off the top. This is NOT your typical cinnamon toast.

Can I just tell you right now – you gotta make this stuff. It’s absolutely delicious. Easy. Fun. Different, and oh, so gosh darned good! This would also be a great project for you and your children. It took about 20 minutes, I’d guess, to make these, then 25 minutes to bake. But then, you’ve got to seal them up and let them sit for 24 hours (that’s really hard). In that 24 hours they go from being crispy cinnamon toast to something more like shortbread with cinnamon and sugar. A cookie. Naturally, I tasted them when they cooled, but the butter is still almost a liquid at that point. Hence you want it to sit so the bread soaks it up. At least I guess that’s the chemistry.

If you go over to Orangette to read the story, you’ll learn that this is a recipe that Molly found in her grandmother’s recipe box, her dear, beloved grandmother who died recently. But Molly got her recipe box when the family divvied up her grandmother’s things. I just love stories like this, but then Molly is a good story-teller of the first order! She’s written a book about recipes and her life called A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. A wonderful read, I’ll tell you first hand. She and her husband Brandon Pettit now own a (mostly pizza) restaurant called Delancey in Seattle. A big dream for two people who had zero restaurant experience. Her blogging probably didn’t hurt any in the popularity department. Wish I lived in Seattle so I could go try it! And run into Molly, perchance.

So here’s what’s involved with making this simple treat/cookie. You mix up some cinnamon and sugar, you melt some unsalted butter, brush trimmed sandwich sized white bread triangles with the melted butter, sprinkle it with the cinnamon-sugar, place on a parchment-covered baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. That’s it. Told ya it was easy!

The other recipe (that I didn’t make) is over at Pioneer Woman. Hers is different – soft butter spread on bread then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and broiled. More a breakfast food or maybe a fun snack.

So, please go out and buy some of that we-won’t-tell-white sandwich bread and give yourself a real treat! Trust me!
printer-friendly PDF

Baked Cinnamon Toasts

Recipe By: Orangette blog (from her grandmother’s recipe box)
Serving Size: 12

1 stick unsalted butter — (4 oz.) cubed
6 slices sandwich bread — thin white, or more slices if needed
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. If you want, line a baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil. It makes cleanup easier.
2. Put the butter into a pie plate or similar baking dish. Slide the dish into the oven, and keep an eye on it. You’re looking for the butter to melt completely.
3. Stack the slices of bread, (cut off the edges if you’d prefer – I did) and then cut them diagonally into quarters. You should have 24 triangles.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon. Turn the cinnamon sugar out onto a dinner plate, or another pie plate.
5. When the butter is melted, remove it from the oven, and brush it onto both sides of a triangle of bread. Don’t be shy: apply the butter generously, so no spot is left uncoated. The bread should feel a little heavy in your hand. Dip the bread into the cinnamon sugar, (or hold each piece in your hand and use a spoon to cover both sides well) taking care to coat both sides. Lay it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces of bread.
6. Bake the toasts for about 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to a rack. The toasts will crisp as they cool. When cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Note: These taste best with a little age. Per Serving: 125 Calories; 8g Fat (54.7% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 21mg Cholesterol; 53mg Sodium.

A year ago: Mushroom Risotto (made in a pressure cooker)
Two years ago: Brownie-Bottom Pudding Pie
Three years ago: Mexican Chopped Salad (a favorite)

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  1. Stacey

    said on May 16th, 2010:

    This sounds scrumptious. Colin and Kaitlyn love everything cinnamon and sugar. I can’t wait to try this recipe.

    I guarantee they’ll like this one, Stacey! . . . carolyn t

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