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Just finished reading How It All Began: A Novelby 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 (she arrived after the birth, actually). 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 father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. 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.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.


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 Beverages, on September 3rd, 2010.

Totally forgot to put in the pretty garnishes – a cinnamon stick and a half round slice of fresh orange. Just picture it there. The glasses were adorned with them when I served it (but I forgot to take a picture) so this is the leftovers that I was sipping on a few nights later . . .

About six weeks ago I posted a recipe for a white sangria that is quite similar to this. sangria_tuaca_dispenserActually, I think the original recipe is the same, but I made a few changes to both.

This sangria is VERY easy to make, as long as you have all the ingredients. The most time consuming was squeezing the fresh limes. It’s fresh orange juice, the fresh lime juice, red wine, Tuaca, Limoncello, some red vermouth and 7-up or Sprite.

The drink is very refreshing, as sangrias are. I like the additional flavor depths from the Tuaca and Limoncello. Hope you try this – it’s worth making.

A friend of mine made this sangria some months ago for a Sunday brunch thing and she put it one of those pretty beverage dispensers. It was a nice day, so we enjoyed the refreshing drink all through the meal. See photo at right.

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Tuscan Sangria

Recipe By: Modified slightly from Food & Wine magazine, Oct. 2007
Serving Size: 10 (maybe)

750 milliliters red wine — Tuscan type like Sangiovese
3 cups fresh orange juice
3/4 cup Tuaca
1/3 cup vermouth — sweet red
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup limoncello
1/4 cup sugar
12 ounces 7-Up® — or Sprite
Orange slices and cinnamon sticks for garnish

1. Combine all the liquid ingredients (except the 7-up) and chill together before serving.
2. Add the 7-up, stir, then fill wine glasses half full with ice, and pour in the sangria. Garnish with an orange slice and a cinnamon stick.
Per Serving: 136 Calories; trace Fat (1.8% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 55mg Sodium.

A year ago: Lime Chocolate Delicious
Two years ago: Peanut Butter Pinwheel Cookies
Three years ago: North African Grilled Corn on the Cob

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  1. Dianne Yoss

    said on April 29th, 2013:

    This sounds like a winner.
    I went to the internet to look up Tuaca since it wasn’t in my “Food Lover’s Companion”.

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