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Just finished reading 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 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.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Recipes highlighted in red are some of my all-time favorites. The cookie recipes are divided up in several sections. Click on the title below to go to that section. Brownies are kind of a cookie, but also kind of a dessert. They’re listed here, but you may find other bar-type desserts under DESSERTS!

 

Bars and Squares (but not Brownies)!

Almond Bar Cookies
Almond Spice Wafers (Moravian Sugar Cookies)
Baked Apricot Rosemary Bars
Brandied Apricot Bars (contains liquor)
Butterscotch Walnut Meringue Bars
Chocolate Almond Saltine Bars
Chocolate Amaretto Bars
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Bars
Frosted Coffee Cookies
GF Ginger Bars
Ginger Crunch Bars
Ginger Pumpkin Bars (kind of like gingery pumpkin pie in a bar)
Graham Cracker Chewy Pecan Bars
Lemon-Lime Macaroon Bars
Maple Walnut Bars
New York Special Slices (similar to Nanaimo Bars)
No-Bake Cookie Cubes (chocolate)
Snickery Squares
Viennese Chocolate-Walnut Bars


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Biscotti!

Chocolate Almond Biscotti
Easy Chocolate Biscotti (from Farmgirl Susan)


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Brownies!

Brownie Thins
Cream Cheese Brownies (from an illustrious magazine)
Heavenly Cream Cheese Brownies
Spiced-Up Brownies (spicy and a little hot)


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Chocolate Chip!

Almond Paste Chocolate Chip Cookies
Bittersweet Chocolate Chip Cookies
Blue Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cardamom Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chewy Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Almond Cherry Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookies (yet another)
Chocolate Chip Cookies from Ad Hoc
Chocolate Chip Cookies (from Baked [Cookbook])
Chocolate Chip Cookies from Silver Moon Bakery
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Fireball
Chocolate Chunk Dried Cherry Oatmeal Cookies
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Pie Bars – these are more cake than cookies
Food 52’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies with Rum
Katherine King’s Double Chocolate Almond Cookies
Maida Heatter’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (crispy outside, soft inside)
Mini-Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies
Nancy Silverton’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (eh)
One Bowl Thin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Salty Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Wellesley Chocolate Chip Cookies
White Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies


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Christmas Cookies!

Almond Cranberry Cookies
Baked Apricot Rosemary Bars
Chocolate Kiss Treasures
Cardamom Cookies
Chocolate Almond Saltine Bars
Cranberry Noels
Harlequin Pinwheels

Lemon Snowball Cookiesa lemon Mexican Wedding cookie
Mexican Wedding Cookies
Rocky Road
Viennese Chocolate-Walnut Bars


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Refrigerator Cookies!

Apricot Thyme Cookies
Coffee Walnut Cookies
Cranberry Noels
Earl Grey (tea) Cookies
Lemon Polenta Cookies
Maple-Walnut Cookies (or Maple Pecan)


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Other – Everything Else!

ANZAC Biscuits
Baked Cinnamon Toasts (made with bread)
Cardamom Cookies
Cashew Caramel Cookies
Cherry Cherry Heering Cookies
Chocolate Almond Cloud Cookies
Chocolate Almond Cookies (very similar to the cloud type above)
Chocolate Bacon Bark
Chocolate Brownie Cookies (B. Patisserie)
Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
Chocolate Korova Cookies
Chocolate Port Balls
Chocolate Puddle Cookies
GF Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
GF Ginger Cookies
Cranberry Orange Cookies
Ginger Cookies
Ginger Snaps with a Ginger Kick
Graham Cracker Cookies from Breadfarm Bakery
Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies
Mexican Wedding Cookies
Midnight Crackles (Chocolate)
Olive Oil Orange Madeleines
Orange Coconut Sour Cream Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookies (a different one)
Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten-Free – and they’re fabulous)
Peanut Butter Pinwheel Cookies
Ranger Cookies
Safari Anzac Biscuits
Safari Seeded Cookies
Sara’s Sugar Cookies – untraditional
Shortbread Cookies
Triple Ginger Cookies

Walnut Black Pepper Cookies

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