Get updates sent to you for free by RSS, or by email:


Currently Reading

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Just finished a stunning book, The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives (don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read and is reviewed below) and really liked it. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by 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. 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 angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. 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.


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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Breads, Brunch, on May 25th, 2011.


Exactly how or why I looked up this recipe, I don’t know. It was recent, so I don’t remember whether it was written up on somebody else’s blog or what. But anyway, the title of the recipe was what intrigued me. A cake just for a brunch. Okay. And bananas too. I was recollecting a good banana cake my mother used to make (and I can’t find her recipe for it). This recipe was uploaded to in 2007.

I did change the recipe just a little bit – I added more cinnamon – well, I rounded the 1 1/2 teaspoons quantity, and I added some freshly grated nutmeg and some ground ginger. Hence it’s now a banana spice cake. It’s not a very high (thick) cake. It’s certainly sweet enough to be a regular cake-cake, and next time I might reduce the sugar in the batter to about a rounded 1/2 cup. But that’s really up to you. I’d say it’s quite low fat (14 grams for a serving, and the servings are large, really large). But my DH will only eat a bite of two of it since it’s loaded with carbs (42 grams) what with the sugar and bananas. Next time I make this I might add half yogurt and half milk since yogurt adds nice moisture to breads and cakes.

When it was warm out of the oven, I did have a small square of it. Oh was it good. Not quite as good the next day when I had a little smidgen (the remainder has gone into packages in the freezer). The cake had a really tender crumb when it was warm – more tender than I’d think anything made with Bisquick could be, actually. Now, I’m not telling you this is the greatest thing I’ve ever made, but if you need an excuse to bake something with some over-ripe bananas, this will fill the bill. It’s very easy to put together – really it is. The topping is easy to make too (don’t eliminate it because you’ll like the crunchy texture). The person who uploaded the recipe mentioned that when her bananas get too ripe, she sticks them whole into the freezer. When she wants to make this cake, she pulls out the blackened bananas, defrosts them in the microwave and they’re just right for the 1 1/2 cups of banana needed. I used 3 1/2 bananas to get 1 1/2 cups. One recipe for this suggested 4. Probably best to measure it!

printer-friendly PDF for Banana Brunch Spice Cake

Banana Brunch Spice Cake

Recipe By: from’s website, 2007
Serving Size: 12 (maybe more like 15)

2 1/2 cups biscuit mix — (Bisquick)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg — freshly grated
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cup bananas — ripe, mashed (about 4 med.)
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped walnuts — (or pecans)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter — melted

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9×13″ baking pan with butter.
2. Combine Bisquick, 3/4 cup brown sugar and spices. Add banana, milk, egg and oil; mix well. Spread into prepared pan. Combine nuts, 1/4 cup brown sugar and butter; sprinkle evenly over batter.
3. Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Will keep for 2 days at room temp.
Per Serving: 308 Calories; 14g Fat (40.8% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 25mg Cholesterol; 359mg Sodium.

A year ago: Pancetta Crisps
Two years ago: Grilled Skirt Steak with Quesadillas

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Get Recipes by Email, Free!

Leave Your Comment