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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 aging 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, wealthy women) 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.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

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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I make almost all of my own dressings. There are only a couple of bottled salad dressings that I’ll use, and that’s just rarely. Recipes highlighted in red are my favorites. The dressings are divided up in three sections. Click on the title below to go to that section. Some salads listed under the main SALADS page have dressings that go with them and not all of those are titled here.

Creamy Dressings!

Avocado Garlic Dressing
Avocado Green Goddess Dressing
Creamy Lemon Citronette
Garlic VIP Dressing
Green Goddess Dressing (traditional type, this one with tarragon)
Green Goddess Dressing (traditional type, but much better than the one above, this one from America’s Test Kitchen)
Mock Caesar Dressing
Divorce Salad Dressing
Mayo Caesar Salad Dressing
Sweet & Spicy Horseradish Dressing
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Vinaigrettes!

Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Balsamic Fig Dressing
Balsamic Vinaigrette
Basil Vinaigrette
Champagne Vinegar Tangerine Juice Dressing (very citrusy and low-calorie)
Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette (kind of a salad, not exactly a dressing)
Cranberry Vinaigrette (eh)
Creamy Garlic Blue Cheese Dressing (probably my #1 favorite dressing)
Creamy Herb Vinaigrette
Herb Mustard Vinaigrette
Lemon Ginger Vinaigrette with Dill
Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette
Lemon Sherry Vinegar Dressing
Lime Cilantro Dressing
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
Molasses Honey Vinaigrette
Orange Jalapeno Vinaigrette
Orange Vanilla Vinaigrette
Rose’s Vinaigrette
Ruby Vinaigrette
Silver Palate’s Basic Vinaigrette
Tangerine Vinaigrette
Tomato, Blue Cheese and Saffron Vinaigrette
Velvet Vinaigrette (contains raw egg)
Vinaigrette (basic)
White Wine Vinaigrette
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Other!

Tikka Salad Dressing (an herb riff on Indian Tikka dishes)
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