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Sara

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Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

Alan Hlad has written quite a novel. From true life. The Long Flight Home. It tells the story based on family history, of the homing pigeons that were used in Britain during WWII that flew back and forth across the English Channel into German-occupied France. It’s a heartwarming story. Heart-wrenching sometimes. War is an awful thing no matter which side you’re on when it comes to how it affects everyday people. You’ll learn a lot about pigeons, but also about love. Great read.

Riveted to Katie Munnick’s novel The Heart Beats in Secret. It begins in Scotland in 1940. A woman, a single mother. A journey across the sea. Then her daughter’s story, and finally the granddaughter’s story, when she inherits her grandmother’s old cottage back in Scotland. Plenty of mother-daughter dysfunction. But it comes right in the end.

Sarah Vallance has written a book about her devastating brain injury. Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain. What a story. What a saga of her recovery. And how she did it. An open wide sharing of her angst, her anger, her journey. Well worth reading. If you have anyone who has suffered a brain injury, it would be wise reading.

Just love all of Amy Harmon’s books. This one is no exception. Where the Lost Wander: A Novel. A pioneer story of a young woman made a widow on the trail to the west. 1850s. As it was in life, tragedies occur. But there is caring and love too. Loved it.

Read Her Mother’s Hope: Marta’s Legacy Series Book 1 (A Gripping Historical Christian Fiction Family Saga from the 1900s to the 1950s) (Marta’s Legacy) by Francine Rivers. After leaving her childhood home of Switzerland, young Marta Schneider dreams of one day owning a boardinghouse, until marriage and motherhood change her ambitions. Determined to give her family a better life, she vows to raise strong children. But her tough love is often misunderstood, especially by her oldest daughter, Hildemara Rose, creating repercussions that will echo for generations.

Esther Freud’s book The Sea House: A Novel is about a small village on England’s southern coast.  The book is about love found, love lost, love sometimes found again, sometimes not. About how fleeting it can be or seem.

Amor Towles’ book, Rules of Civility: A Novel was quite a read. It’s NYC, 1937. Twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent [Kon-TENT she iterates to many] is in a Greenwich Village jazz bar when a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. What an adorable book. True story about Stacey’s 20 years with a feisty but lovable barn owl.

Loved The Wedding Officer: A Novel by Anthony Capella. It takes place in the middle of WWII in Naples. A young British officer, Captain James Gould, is sent to Naples to wade through the zilions of applications from soldiers to marry local Italian women (and presumably take them back to England when the war ends).

Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald. So interesting. Jill is  young, with a newly minted degree in library science at a time when the economy was very slow. She accepts a position in a minimum security prison in Ohio.

The Walls of Lucca by Steve Physioc. A novel that takes place in between WWI and II about a weary Italian soldier.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. A novel about Croatia in the aftermath of their more recent wars.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

Having read all of Kristin Hannah’s books, I knew I’d read her latest too: Between Sisters: A Novel.  Two sisters, raised by the same mother but different fathers. At a young age a rift occurs and the sisters go their own way.

Just finished Matt McCarthy’s book The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year. It tells the true life story of his first year as an intern at a New York hospital.

Also read Karen Harper’s book The Royal Nanny: A Novel. The time frame is 1890s onward, at Sandringham, when Charlotte Bill (a real person) was hired by the Duke and Duchess of York, to care for their children.

Also read Roger Swindell’s Mendelevski’s Box. It’s an historical novel about the aftermath of WWII in impoverished Amsterdam.

Also read a very quirky non-fiction book: The Perfect Gentleman: The remarkable life of Dr. James Miranda Barry by June Rose. This is a biography about a person who lived in the mid-1800s. He was a surgeon; graduated from Edinburgh Medical School at the age of 14. Joined the British Army as a medical officer then sent off to South Africa and many other tropical outposts during his career.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with her distant heritage.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. It’s about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the breadwinners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt.  You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. 

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania.

One of my book clubs had us read Louise Penny’s novel, A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel). The book takes place at a lovely inn in Canada and Chief Inspector Gamache (he is quite a character – along with his wife – are vacationing there) when a murder occurs.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s.  Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? If I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who  lacks self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. Sweet story.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) by Francine Rivers.

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

Answer As a Man

Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel).

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

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 Breads, on August 29th, 2018.

pumpkin_cr_cheese_muffins_tin

(A post from Sara) These very tasty muffins are great to stuff in my son’s lunches or for snacks. Full of flavor and warm fall spices.

pumpkin_cr_cheese_muffin_batterMy 18-year old H.S. senior son plays football. And he eats a LOT. When my husband and I recently went on Weight Watcher’s, my son lost weight he didn’t need to. Although he says he’s fine at his new, lower weight, he needs tons of calories (and carbs) during football season. That’s like NOW. So, even though I’m not baking much these days, I still need to make things for John.

My mom, Carolyn, was visiting over the weekend, so we made these muffins. ‘Tis the season for pumpkin, and I knew John would like the combination of pumpkin and cream cheese. The recipe is supposed to be a copycat of Starbuck’s version. I found it at Genius Kitchen, but as my mom and I read all the comments (many) we decided to change the recipe some. And after we had made half of them we decided to change it a little bit more.

cr_cheese_fillingThere was cocoa in the recipe, and although we used it, we both decided it didn’t add anything. You couldn’t taste chocolate, so why bother, right? We were glad we didn’t add molasses, but we did up the spices a lot. It called for 1 1/4 cups of oil – we decided to use 3/4 cup of buttermilk and 1/2 cup of oil instead (suggested in one of the comments). These were still very moist and tender. And the biggest tweak we did was, for each muffin cup, to pour 2/3 of the batter in first (instead of half which was the instruction in the original recipe), then spoon the cream cheese filling (a brick of cream cheese, an egg, some sugar and vanilla) across the middle, then we spooned the remaining batter on top, but left some of the cream cheese portion visible. We thought it made these much more interesting to look at.

So, there was a little bit of quality control going on that day – my mom had a couple of bites – and I ate a little bit too. Even though a muffin isn’t on either of our diets. But we needed to tell you these were good, right? And they were. I’d definitely make these again (when I’m off a low carb diet!). All the muffins are safely stored in my freezer to be pulled out as needed.

What’s GOOD: the warm fall spices were the best part, I think. And the look of the top – the cream cheese peeking through. Loved the pumpkin flavor, of course. We thought next time we might use more nuts on top – we were very stingy with them. Be generous.

What’s NOT: only that you do have to make 2 batters, but really, the cream cheese one isn’t difficult in the least. My muffin tin is a bit on the small side, so we got more muffins from this recipe than it indicated. If you have larger muffin tins, of course, you’ll yield fewer. Just so you know . . .

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Serving Size: 32
Recipe By: Adapted from Genius Kitchen

FILLING:
8 ounces cream cheese — softened
1 large egg
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
MUFFINS:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
chopped pecans for topping

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Mix cream cheese with one egg and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Set aside.
3. Combine all the dry ingredients (not the nuts) in a medium mixing bowl and use a whisk to mix everything together well. In another large bowl combine eggs, pumpkin, buttermilk and oil, and use a whisk to mix thoroughly. Pour dry mixture into the liquid mixture and stir until all lumps are gone.
6. Fill muffin tins (greased or paper cups) two-thirds full.
7. Spoon cream cheese cross-wise in the middle with some reaching to the outside edge. Spoon remaining one-third muffin batter on top, allowing some of the cream cheese filling to show, if possible. Sprinkle pecans (or other nuts of your choice) on top.
8. Bake for 18- 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the muffin (do not test in the cream cheese part).
9. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely. Do not touch the cream cheese until it cools.
Per Serving: 168 Calories; 7g Fat (36.5% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 41mg Cholesterol; 145mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on August 30th, 2018:

    It’s great to see another post from you, Sara! I’ve never had the Starbucks version, but yours definitely sounds more appealing. I know it would go over well with both of my daughters, so next time one of them comes to tea, we might just give them a try.

    So far Sara doesn’t know how to act as an administrator behind the scenes, so I’m saying thank you for her. I will relay your sentiments. . . carolyn t

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on August 31st, 2018:

    Hmm, is it pumpkin time again?! 🙂

    Tee-hee, Toni. Yep! If you didn’t hear the news, Starbucks just announced that their Pumpkin Spice Latte (wildly popular) is now available through the holidays. Am sure there was a near-stampede on the first day. Was it yesterday? Can’t recall. They’re way too sweet for me – I like my coffee plain with cream, thank you! . . . carolyn t

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