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Currently Reading

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Just finished Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

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 and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. 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-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.


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 Uncategorized, on January 20th, 2017.

No, this isn’t a repeat from yesterday – these are the best-est recipes I posted last year. Yesterday’s post was for 2015. Sorry if this is confusing. Altogether different recipes here. For 2016 I had a total of 8 recipes. In years past I’ve had more best-est recipes, but I used to post every 2-3 days then. These days I’m posting every 4-5 days. Here’s 2016 best-est recipes:



Spinach, Jicama, Red Onion and Orange Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette







Pork Enchilada Verde Casserole





Chile-Buttermilk-Brined Pork Tenderloin






Safari Seeded Cookies





Blueberry Buckle





Apple Bread Crumb Pudding





Best Almond Cake


   Cinnamon Chocolate Cake


Posted in Uncategorized, on January 19th, 2017.

Last January, apparently, I forgot to post a list of my best-of-the-best recipes from the previous year. So, I’m rectifying that now. Tomorrow you’ll see the best of 2016.

There were only 7 best-est recips in 2015. And here they are. Click on the link to go to the original post about the recipe.


Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese





Roast Chicken Salad (simplified Zuni Café recipe)




Braised Lamb Shanks with Carrots




breadfarms_grahams_175Breadfarm’s Homemade Graham Crackers




berry_cobbler_sublime_175Sublime Berry Cobbler





 No-Bake Holiday Cookie Cubes (Dorie Greenspan)




peach_blackberry_almond_crisp_175Peach & Blackberry Almond Crisp

Posted in Uncategorized, on January 4th, 2017.

Cookie Science via @kingarthurflour

There’s a fascinating article over at Flourish, the blog written by the bakers at King Arthur Flour. I subscribe to their blog (have for years) and this particular one is so interesting. But then, I’ve always been interested in how a little tiny change in a recipe for cookies can make such a huge difference. Photo: King Arthur Flour


Have you ever wondered what would happen:

If you added 2 T of milk to the cookie batter?

If you added a little extra white sugar?

If you added brown sugar instead of white?

What if I used water instead of milk?


Head over to this blog piece, then, to get all the answers and the chemistry behind each one.

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 31st, 2016.


I don’t much like pictures of myself. Janice, a family member, took this photo of my cousin Gary and me on Christmas Day. We were staying at my son’s home near Pasadena, and I think that was just some morning coffee in my hands! My cousin is very dear to me. He’s single, lives in Northern California, and has spent Christmases with me for years and years. He’s gone back home now, but I sure enjoyed having him here for the 10 days he visited. He did a whole bunch of “honey-do” items for me since I don’t have a “honey” anymore. He’s a tech wizard, and we managed to get nearly all the items accomplished. He’s my GF (gluten-free) relative, and I made a fabulous GF angel food pumpkin cheesecake trifle for Christmas Eve and Day. You’d not have known it was GF. Recipe coming up sometime soon.

Meanwhile, I hope all of you have a lovely New Year Holiday. I’m not doing anything special, just me with my little blind kitten, Angel, who’s been a great companion for me since I got her. She now knows her way around my downstairs, knows where her litter box is, and for now she spends nights in a downstairs bathroom. I’ll introduce her to my upstairs eventually, and likely she’ll sleep with me in time. She can’t go through the night without using her litter box, so I’m not ready to have her wake me up throughout the night. Why would she wake me up, you ask? – because as a blind kitten she can’t find her way off the bed – I’ll have to train her how to do that – the same thing training her how to get up on the bed – with a footstool and a pillow for her to climb and get down on, but because she can’t see her destination, it takes repetitive training to teach her – she’s very smart, so I know she’ll get it soon enough. She’s about 11 weeks old now. Here she is curled up in the cat tree beside me at my kitchen computer. Her eyes are recessed and if you look at her straight on, you know she’s blind, but gosh, she sure has acute hearing and smell. She’s a sweet little thing – when I don’t call her Angel I call her “sweet pea.”

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 18th, 2016.

A pool of melted chocolate. Using the best baking chocolate is important when making holiday desserts.

Photo: Consumer Reports

I read about this on another website (I think it was Eat Your Books). It was a link to a site at Consumer Reports where you can read just about everything you’d ever want to know about baking chocolate. It’s a great resource – one I should print out or at least save to my computer. Here’s the link:

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 6th, 2016.


I have a new kitten – isn’t that just the cutest photo?

Not that all of you keep track, but I had a cat, Oliver, for about 1 1/2 years. He was a good cat until a few months ago when he started biting me. Badly. Not just a friendly, playful nip. I had to make a very hard decision about him after he bit me so badly I had to go on antibiotics because my arm swelled up with infection. I tried training him with suggestions I read on the ‘net  – I could tell when he was going to leap and bite – his eyes dilated and he got into a stance to leap (and bite). He began to view my right arm as a predator, for some reason. I don’t know what was wrong with him – I never abused him or anything like that. But he had to go. It was heart-breaking – truly it was. I cried about it, but knew that no one else should adopt him if he had “issues.”

My thought was that  I wasn’t going to have another cat for awhile. Then, a few days ago I had a kind of a hard day – my house is all decorated for Christmas – I had Christmas carols playing – I felt cozy and warm inside, especially since I had the fireplace on too, and I just felt very lonely. And very sad. And I was grieving over my husband and my little Oliver too. Then out of the blue I got a phone call the next day from a friend who had known Oliver and what had happened. He called me about this little kitten. She was found on the side of the street, cold, wet (it was raining) and she couldn’t figure out how to get from the gutter up onto the curb. What her story is, we don’t know. But she wasn’t at all frightened of people. Her hearing, of course, is acute. The vet says she was likely born blind. I went online and read what I could about blind cats and it says they adapt extremely well – with suggestions like not moving furniture around too much, and they can’t ever go outside. Well, I couldn’t do that anyway, because I live in coyote country, and this little muffin would be a coyote’s snack in a minute.

The family who found her took the photo at top. How could you NOT love this little thing. She’s tiny, though she’s about 7-8 weeks old. She’s figured out in a little over a day and a half how to navigate around my downstairs (LR, DR, FM, kitchen). I’ve kept other doors closed so as not to confuse her. As I write this, she’s still trying to learn where her litter box is – since I’m not sure she does, I’m ever-vigilant to waltz her down the hall to her box on a regular basis. What I am is tired – because she’s like having a toddler in the house. But she’s sweet and the vet, today, says she’s fine and should have a happy life.

Posted in Uncategorized, on November 7th, 2016.


Posted in Uncategorized, on June 30th, 2016.



My friend Darlene grows wonderful tomatoes every summer. She shared a little batch of these tiny guys. Aren’t they beautiful? They taste like sugar!

Posted in Uncategorized, on April 26th, 2016.

My friend Darci told me about Pinterest about 3-4 years ago, I’m guessing it was. And I’ve been hooked ever since. My gosh, you could just get lost following links and finding new and different boards, everything from home décor, DIY projects, travel photos and obviously, FOOD. I’ve been posting some of my blog post pictures on Pinterest for a couple of years. Most of the time I pay little attention to what, amongst my own recipes/posts/pictures are being re-pinned, but the other day I decided to really look. I get an email every day informing me what items have been re-pinned, but to add them all up is very interesting. So, I thought I’d share with you the most popular pins.

The one that has created the most re-pins is:

I call them French Hamburgers. It’s a Julia Child recipe, and as I explained in my post, back in 2007, that these are a family favorite, one of my favorites, and even worthy of a company meal. You don’t serve them with hamburger buns – this is a much more formal kind of burger – it has a luscious wine/butter sauce poured over it, and you eat it kind of like a meatloaf, I suppose, but you do cook it in a skillet, just like a hamburger.

This recipe, as I write it up today, has been re-pinned several thousand times. That’s a LOT! I think. If you’ve never made these, you’re depriving yourself of a treat. Do buy good ground meat.

The next recipe that gets re-pinned a lot, is this salad dressing:


This dressing, Lime Cilantro Dressing, was posted in 2013, from a new cookbook I’d been given. As I recall, I was making a very Southwestern type meal for guests, and thought this dressing sounded so different, and good.

The only really important thing to remember is that is must be used within 24 hours, as the fresh cilantro doesn’t hold up well in a dressing. As we know, cilantro wilts when it gets wet, and even though it’s suspended in a dressing, it also dissolves, sort of.

This picture has been re-pinned about 1400 times, as I write this, anyway, and somebody re-pins it almost every day.



And another one that’s also extremely popular is:


If you stabilize mashed potatoes with cream cheese, they’ll keep at low heat for a long, long time. That’s why this recipe for Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes works so well. It’s was a regular on my Thanksgiving Day menu for years and years. Since my DH passed away, I usually go to one of my kids’ home for that day and I bring vegetables or dessert. If I ever need a whole bunch of mashed potatoes for a gathering, though, this is my go-to recipe that I posted back in 2007. It’s been re-pinned several hundred times.


Another favorite on Pinterest is this concoction:

Supposedly, this recipe comes from Rachael Ray. I got it at a cooking class many years ago, and even just now I searched amongst Rachael Ray’s recipes online, and it’s not there. So, who knows the origin. At any rate, it’s a cross between a soup and a stew. It’s thick. It’s easy peasy – ground beef and some pasta with a creamy sauce (from cream cheese added in at the end) and tomatoes and kidney beans. You can throw it together in no time flat. My mouth is watering . . .

Beef & Cheese Macaroni Stoup

This recipe hasn’t been re-pinned all that many times (like the ones above), but enough to make me notice!

If you’re not a regular on Pinterest, you might want to check it out. It’s fun. Addicting. Very interesting. Start your own “board,” and you save things to it, kind of like your own bulletin board at home, but it’s online. Create categories that suit your interests (like hobbies, reading, travel, etc.). I have a board for Zentangles (an art form) and yesterday I must have pinned 20 new Zentangle art pieces to my own board. You can visit other people’s boards, and you can “follow” specific people on boards also. It’s all about the pictures!

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 11th, 2015.


On Monday, the 3 of us spent nearly all day baking Christmas cookies. What cookies, you ask? Read below.

Looks like I was the only one holding the glass of champagne and cassis we decided to share. Another friend, Sandy, stopped by with a bottle of champagne (thanks, Sandy). Sandy took the picture of us. Cherrie and I both made some of the cookie dough ahead of time so we had a leg up on the long day of baking. Here’s what we made – all recipes you can find here on my blog:


Chocolate Almond Saltine Toffee – seems like this cookie/candy thing made with saltine crackers, caramel, chocolate and almonds has made the rounds for several years now. It’s such a winner of a recipe. I particularly like these because they’re sweet, salty, crunch and chocolate all at the same time. Love the texture. I’m not much of a fan of chocolate or caramel, but this. Oh yes, love it.







Next on the list of cookies were Cranberry Noels. They’re a slice and bake type – a sugar cookie type with chopped dried cranberries inside, formed into long rolls, then gently rolled in unsweetened shredded coconut. They’re chilled for several hours or overnight, sliced and baked. One of my favorites, and I even make them at other times of the year than Christmas.



These are just the best Ginger Cookies – a recipe from my friend Ann N. They’re crispy and crunchy and very easy. They flatten out all by themselves in the oven – all you do is roll them, press them down with a fork and bake. Great with a cup of coffee, I can attest.






Mexican Wedding Cookies – the picture at left looks like they’re beige. No – I must have taken the photo under ambient light, not under my good lighting. So, they’re traditional and coated in powdered sugar that gets all over you and everything. But, they’re oh-so good. A must every Christmas.


Viennese Chocolate-Walnut Bars. What can I say – good and chocolatey, but not like fudge. It’s more like a thick cake on top then topped with another thin layer of icing, then chocolate and nuts.  It’s a Maida Heatter recipe if that gives you any clue as to how perfect these are. I hadn’t made these for several years, but I’m glad we did. I’ve had one piece two mornings in a row with my coffee.


Baked Apricot Rosemary Bars – the filling does have to cook for awhile (dried apricots, white wine, sugar, honey, brandy and salt) then it’s whizzed up in the blender. It is spread on top of the baked shortbread type layer (that contains the fresh chopped rosemary) and topped with crumbs, then baked.

We had a really fun day – Jackie and Cherrie both kept the kitchen sink clean by washing several batches of cookie sheets, mixing bowls and utensils. I almost took a picture of my kitchen floor to show you what it looked like. Not a pretty sight. My cleaning gals came the next day so I just left it all there and they cleaned it up.

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