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Just finished The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

Read Grace Unshakled, by Irene Huising. From Amazon’s page, it says: “In the year 2025, 17-year-old Grace Duncan finds herself in shackles because of her faith in Christ. An obedient daughter and stellar student, doing time in jail was never on her mental radar, despite the changes in religious laws [this takes place here in the United States] over the past few years. Through twists and turns in circumstances, Grace and a small band of Christians in Newport Beach, California begin a journey to discover what it means to follow Christ with unwavering faith in the midst of increasing persecution. Facing the potential loss of all her hopes and dreams, would Christ be enough?” We read this for one of my book clubs, and it’s a scary thought about what it could mean if we take God out of our country. The author is a friend of a friend and she attended our book club meeting to share about how she came to write this book. I don’t often share my faith here on my website, but this book made me stop and think about the direction our government is going, removing more and more our ability to worship God. Or to worship in any religion. Will this book ever make waves in the book world? Probably not. My copy may be a pre-edited version, as it contained numerous typos and formatting errors. But they didn’t detract from the subject, just the cosmetics. The book doesn’t come to a resolution; in fact it leaves you hanging, as some books do. It was intentional (obviously), but left me wondering about the “end of the story.”

Also just finished reading The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Read The German Girl: A Novel by Correa. It chronicles the story of a wealthy German Jewish family in Berlin, as the Nazis arrive and make life a living hell. The family is lucky (I guess you could say this) to be allowed to purchase passage on the M.S. St. Louis, a passenger liner, to take them to “the Americas.” The destination is actually Cuba. The story is told from two voices – the teenage daughter in this story, and from a current-day distant family member who is trying to learn about her ancestry. Of the 900+ passengers on the ship, only a few were allowed to disembark since the Cuban President decided he needed more money to accept them. Most families had no money left, as the Reich had taken nearly all of their assets. The daughter and her very eccentric mother were allowed to stay in Cuba.  The remaining passengers are rejected by the U.S. too, and eventually return to Europe, where most of the Jews end up dying in concentration camps. The story goes back and forth from the 1939 journey to current day as the link between the two women is slowly revealed. I had a tough time sometimes, tracking the people in this book, but the story was very riveting. It’s based on facts about the ship (see Wikipedia link above if you’re interested). A shameful chapter in history.

Recently finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome (the Pope) – he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of Margaret of York (a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine),  who was a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or the curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

Also recently read 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 free-lance 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 family was 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 an old (wild) 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. Just read this one first!

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 July 12th, 2008.

one bowl chocolate chip, thin and buttery cookies
You’ve heard it here before – I have a very hard time passing up any chocolate chip cookie recipe. Good old Tollhouse is still my fav, but occasionally I’m tempted by another. Fickle cookie person that I am! What made this one unique was cornstarch. I know, cornstarch in a cookie? As I was reading Anna’s blog, Cookie Madness (I don’t know HOW that girl makes so many cookies, sometimes 2-3 batches a DAY!), she was talking about her very favorite CC cookie recipe, from Wellesley. She elaborated that they’re not the best-est looking cookie in the parade, but they’re thin, buttery and crispy, if you bake them right. She also mentioned that there’s a very fine line between looking done, and being just right – with crispy edges – and being overdone. That’s the secret. All RIGHT, I thought. Let’s give this a try.

Anna talked about the difficulty with her perfect recipe, of baking these so they come out at the perfect stage, so she decided to add one tablespoon of cornstarch. Hoping to encourage the crisp edges, but deter the overdone cookie. I’m never sure about adding either more liquid (like a dash of coffee, for instance) or dry stuff, just because it could change the chemistry of a cookie, big time. I’m glad she tried the combination. It works! In this case I did add some walnuts. If you’re a CC cookie purist, then you’ll omit those, I guess.

These cookies were easy as pie to mix up. Oh, that phrase is a misnomer. Pie isn’t easy, according to me. But you get my drift. One bowl? Yes. Thin? Yes. Buttery? Oh yes. Delicious. Oh my yes. I think my first batch got overdone – I saw what she meant about the fine line. I baked these one pan at a time as Anna suggested . . . I used a Silpat on the cookie sheet . . . and when I peeked at the cookies at 10 minutes, they didn’t show any sign of crispy (browner) edges, so I left them in for ONE MORE MINUTE. At 11 minutes they were too done. Oh, dear! So, the next pan I cut down the time by 30 seconds. Still too done. Maybe the 10 minutes was right. But, you do have to remember, that once the pan is hot, when you put in the second batch, they’ll take less time. So I still have a bit of learning to do with this recipe. But it doesn’t matter once you taste them! When I removed them from the oven, believe it or not, you could actually see light through some of the cookies, they’re that thin. Notice in the picture that the top cookie almost looks slumped. My husband looked at them and said “what’s wrong with those cookies?” Hah. Funny guy.

If you like soft crumbly cookies, this recipe is NOT for you. But if, like me, you love crispy crunchy cookies, these guys will float your boat. And also providing you don’t mind eating or serving some ugly ducklings! My one time fling may turn into an affair. We’ll have to see. Thank you, Anna, for sharing this wonderful recipe with us.
printer-friendly PDF

One Bowl Thin & Buttery Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe By: Anna from Cookie Madness
Servings: 36

8 tablespoons unsalted butter — room temp (114 grams)
1/2 cup light brown sugar — packed (100 grams)
6 tablespoons granulated sugar — (78 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla — (5 ml)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt — (2.5 ml)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda — (2.5 ml)
1 tablespoon cornstarch — (15 ml)
1 cup flour — (4.75 oz) – (135 grams) — scooped
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips — (270 grams)
2/3 cup chopped walnuts — optional (my addition)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and have ready an ungreased cookie sheet – preferably one that is not insulated (I used a Silpat).
2. Beat the butter, both types sugars, and vanilla together in a medium bowl, using an electric mixer. When creamy, beat in the egg. When egg is well blended, add salt and baking soda and beat well, scraping sides of bowl once or twice and making sure baking soda is well distributed throughout batter. Add cornstarch and stir until blended. Add flour and stir (do not beat) until it is almost blended in. Add the chocolate chips (and nuts if you use them) and stir until all flour disappears.
3. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto the ungreased cookie sheets. Bake one sheet at a time on center rack for 8-10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. The cookies should get very brown around the edges, but do take care not to burn the bottoms.
Per Serving: 184 Calories; 11g Fat (51.1% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 21mg Cholesterol; 84mg Sodium.

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  1. Anna

    said on July 12th, 2008:

    Hi Carolyn!

    I’m glad you liked the cookies. Also, yours look gorgeous! Maybe it’s the way you arranged them in the photo, but I think they look delicious.

    As for burning and crispness issues, I like cooking mine on a non-insulated cookie sheet because I like the crispness even if it means I need to be diligent in checking the time. However, an insulated cookie sheet might work almost as well and would definitely prevent browning on the bottom. So I might go ahead and test some on an insulated sheet too.

  2. Carolyn

    said on July 14th, 2008:

    Maybe the secret would be using parchment paper. The Silpat may act as an insulator, but the parchment might be better. I’ll have to try that next time instead. I’m still loving these cookies – they are the most crisp cookie I’ve ever eaten, and the taste is just superb.

  3. Jerianne

    said on February 22nd, 2014:

    I really like this One-Bowl,Thin and Crispy CC Cookies. Mmmmmm

    Let’s get together some time next month??? I need a Carolyn fix! 😀

    Thanks for all your hard work putting your excellent blog together.

    I’m glad you liked those. I do too, obviously! . . . carolyn

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