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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2023, I’m still doing 99% of the blogging and holding out hope that these two lovely and excellent cooks will participate. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

The Concubine, by Norah Lofts. Over the years I’ve read several books about the wives of Henry VIII. All quite fascinating. This one is all about Anne Boleyn. It’s historical fiction, in that the author gives a voice to all the characters, including Henry himself. Henry waited years upon years to have his way with Anne (she holding him off because he still was very married to Catherine of Spain). There’s one tidbit of insight (true? who knows?) that once Henry finally bedded Anne, he was quite disappointed with the act, and barely bothered to visit her bed except to his need for a son, each time equally disappointed (with the act). Such an interesting sideline to the fated life of Henry (and Anne), wanting nothing more than a son to succeed him. Henry did marry Anne Boleyn, but then beheaded her 2 years later, claiming she’d been an adulterer. Many people of the time called Anne The Concubine, hence the title. No one knows for sure whether she was or she wasn’t an adulterer. Made for a good read.

Fellowship Point by Alice Elliott Dark. Oh my goodness. One of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. I love nothing better than being engrossed in a book, so much that I can’t wait to get back to it. This book takes place in Maine, in some previous decades, and revolves around the friendship between two women and their families. This fictitious area, called Fellowship Point, was purchased by a small group of like-minded couples, as a place to spend the summers raising their children. There was a special land grant for this property, and as these two matriarchs reach old age, their purposes are at odds. The book covers so many subjects (let alone the beauty of the Maine landscape, which plays large) including reflections on aging, writing, land stewardship, family legacies, independence, and responsibility. Secrets are kept and then revealed. I guarantee you’ll be intrigued once you begin the first page.

On Mystic Lake, Kristin Hannah. One of Hannah’s earlier books. Another one I could hardly bear to stop reading. A woman sees her young adult daughter go off to school. In the next breath her husband tells her he’s in love with someone else and leaves. She’s nearly off her hinges. Grief? Yes. Disbelief? Yes. Eventually she retreats to her hometown in Washington State, hoping for some peace and understanding. She meets someone. Well, read the book.

A Wild and Heavenly Place by Robin Oliveira. A very different historical novel about the Pacific Northwest in its very early days. In the fleeting days of youth, in Scotland, a boy and a girl fall in love. The girl, with her family move to America, to some unknown place in Washington Territory. It takes years, but the boy makes his way to America too, to find her. Wishing doesn’t always make the best bedfellows. There is great plenty (coal) and great hardship (from the unforgiving land and equally unforgiving landlords of the coal industry). Very interesting history; liked the book a lot.

The Women, Kristin Hannah. Obviously I’m a fan of Hannah’s writing. She tackles some very difficult subjects, and this one is no different. During the Vietnam War, gullible Americans like me, believed what was delivered via media that there were no women in military service in Vietnam. Not true. Although this book is fiction, it delves deeply into the harsh environment of the nursing corps (and doctors too) who did their best to patch up the thousands of soldiers who could possibly be saved after the ugly battles. Another book I could hardly put down. It also covers PTSD, not only in the badly wounded soldiers, but the doctors and nurses who were bombed and lost lives too. The book is an eye-opener and one every American should read.

The Map Colorist by Rebecca D’Harlingue. Who knew there were such map-coloring artists back in the 1600s. And to find a woman doing it was unheard of. I was very intrigued by the actual art involved, and in this story she had to hide behind her mother’s skill because a young person simply couldn’t do the job, so the publishers thought. Her skill comes to the fore as she begins working with a wealthy man in her Dutch neighborhood. Very intriguing story. D’Harlingue is a very good story teller.

The Paris Novel, Ruth Reichl. Such a cute book – I devoured it. As much for the story as the occasional descriptions of food. Stella receives an unlikely inheritance from her mother – a one way ticket to Paris. The time is right and she goes. Wandering the streets she spots a vintage Dior gown hanging in a consignment store. The store owner insists she try it on, and then insists she buy it and wear it for a night of new adventures. Next stop: oysters at Les Deux Magots. There she meets an octogenarian and her real adventure begins. Hold onto your seat as Stella’s life takes on wings. So cute. A little bit of magical thinking, but plausible and fun from beginning to end. Loved it and could hardly put it down.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle. Amazon tells it best: “Where do you see yourself in five years? Dannie Kohan lives her life by the numbers. She is nothing like her lifelong best friend—the wild, whimsical, believes-in-fate Bella. Her meticulous planning seems to have paid off after she nails the most important job interview of her career and accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal in one fell swoop, falling asleep completely content. But when she awakens, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. Dannie spends one hour exactly five years in the future before she wakes again in her own home on the brink of midnight—but it is one hour she cannot shake. In Five Years is an unforgettable love story, but it is not the one you’re expecting.”

The Paris Daughter, Kristen Harmel. Never ceases to amaze me how authors can come up with a different take on a war novel. Riveting. Two young women meet in a park is Paris in 1939. Elise and Juliette and Juliette’s very young daughter. Elise must run as she’s Jewish, but she entrusts her baby to her friend Juliette. At the end of the war Elise returns to Paris to try to find her daughter. Oh, what a wicked web we weave sometimes. You’ll hang onto every new revelation in her journey to find her daughter.

Master Slave Husband Wife by Ilyon Woo. This book almost defies belief, but it’s a true story. In 1848, an enslaved Black couple, she fairer skinned, him dark skinned, manage to escape bondage by posing as a white woman with her slave (not husband). They journey from Georgia by various means, mere feet from the slave traders trying to find them, with ingenious methods of disguise. They’re handed from one “underground railroad” home to another, in between taking public transportation. Their goal: freedom in Philadelphia. Yet once they get there they don’t feel free, so they continue their journey northward. What a story. Another one every American should read. This book has been given many awards; so worth reading.

The Tiffany Girl by Deanne Gist. Such an interesting story. Flossie Jayne, a student at the Art Institute in NYC, is asked to help THE Mr. Louis Tiffany, finish the very elaborate glass chapel at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, when the glassworker’s union goes on strike. Many women were employed (when it was thought they couldn’t possibly have the strength to cut glass), working day and night, to finish the work. This is Flossie’s story, of the people she meets, and foists off, but always with her eye on the dream, succeeding in the art of cut glass design. Very interesting story. If you’ve ever admired Tiffany glass lamps and other decor items, you’ll enjoy learning more about what’s involved in making them.

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki. Ah, to live within the life of the rich and famous. This is a book of historical fiction, but is very much the story of Marjorie Merriweather Post. Her life. Her goals. Her daughters. Amazon notes: “Presidents have come and gone, but she has hosted them all. Growing up in the modest farmlands of Battle Creek, Michigan, Marjorie was inspired by a few simple rules: always think for yourself, never take success for granted, and work hard—even when deemed American royalty, even while covered in imperial diamonds. Marjorie had an insatiable drive to live and love and to give more than she got.” Her life wasn’t all sweetness and light. She was a survivor, had a good solid head for business, and married several times. Her life was very Oprah-esque, with fresh flowers in abundance every day, dripping with jewels and custom clothing. But she also knew how to scrimp and remake herself. Fascinating read. Wish I could have met her and  had tea (one of her favorite things).

Fox Creek by William Kent Kreuger. A Cork O’Connor Mystery. Kreuger is known for his love of the land. I’ve been a fan of his work for a long time. This one is new. This one weaves Indian territory and mores with a murder mystery. Very riveting as any mystery should be.

Chenneville, Paulette Jiles. From Amazon: Union soldier John Chenneville suffered a traumatic head wound in battle. His recovery took the better part of a year as he struggled to regain his senses and mobility. By the time he returned home, the Civil War was over, but tragedy awaited. John’s beloved sister and her family had been brutally murdered.” This is the story of his dogged, relentless journey to find and kill the killer. Grip your seat as he weathers some very treacherous adventures. Really good read, rugged outdoors kind of story. I’ve loved Jiles’ writing ever since I read News of the World by her. She’s a really good story-teller.

The Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala. Oh my goodness. From Amazon: In 2004, at a beach resort on the coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala and her family—parents, husband, sons—were swept away by a tsunami. Only Sonali survived to tell their tale. This is her account of the nearly incomprehensible event and its aftermath.” I’ll tell you, this is a very hard book to read. The writer, the victim, tells you in intimate detail what happened at the time, immediately after, and then recounts months by month and a loooong time after her journey of grief. She barely functions. Wishes she’d been swept away too. Harrowing account of the facts and the journey of living again.

The Art of Resistance by Justus Rosenberg. From amazon: Unlike any World War II memoir before it. Rosenberg, has spent the past seventy years teaching the classics of literature to American college students. Hidden within him, however, was a remarkable true story of wartime courage and romance worthy of a great novel. Here is Professor Rosenberg’s elegant and gripping chronicle of his youth in Nazi-occupied Europe, when he risked everything to stand against evil.” His parents sent him off to Paris early on to go to school, from Danzig (which likely saved his life), but he becomes the hunted, and eventually part of the underground. Gripping book; well worth reading.

The Royal Librarian by Daisy Wood. A little bit of a reach, but believable nonetheless. A young woman, an accomplished librarian from Austria in 1940, is sent to Windsor to sort the centuries of valuable books, maps and treasures of the Royal Family. She believes she’s on a mission for British intelligence. She very distantly befriends Princess Elizabeth. Years later her sister unearths documentation about her sister, and she undertakes a journey of discovery too. You’ll learn a lot about Windsor Castle, even what they did during the Blitz. Lots of intrigue. Very sweet book and interesting since I love books about the Royal Family.

Long Time Gone by Charlie Donlea. If you watch any crime shows, you know how important DNA is these days. Here is a mystery that comes from familial DNA, in a framework of a current day research project. The protaganist is a fellow (woman) preparing to be a medical examiner. She’s assigned a project regarding DNA, requiring her to submit her own. She knows she was adopted, but nothing more. Oh my, stand by as this book unfolds with drama within nearly every page. Could hardly put it down. Her life is threatened and she doesn’t know who is friend or foe.

A Most Intriguing Lady, by Sarah Ferguson with Marguerite Kaye. Sarah Ferguson, yes, that Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, has now written her second novel. About a very astute young woman who deftly avoids the marriage mart, but comes from the ton. She wants to “do” something with her life other than be a companion to her aging mother. Plenty of characters, some intrigue, a love interest, cute story, you know how it will end, but good reading nevertheless. I liked Ferguson’s first book better, Her Heart for a Compass.

Under the Java Moon, by Heather Moore. Sometimes these WWII books are tough to read. This is a true story (written as fiction, though) about a few Dutch families who are taken prisoner on Java Island, by the Japanese. Certainly it’s a story about unbelievable deprivation and sadness, but also about resilience too. Not everyone survives, as you could guess, but you’ll be rooting for young Rita who takes on so many responsibilities far beyond her 6-year old’s abilities. I read this because a dear friend of mine’s husband (now deceased) was in the Army during WWII and spent a lot of his duty in Indonesia and had horrific stories to tell about the weather and environment (awful!). A period of his life he liked to forget. The book certainly brings that period and place to the forefront. I’m glad I read it.

Never in a million years would I have picked up Blind Your Ponies, by Stanley Gordon West. If I’d read the cover or flap that the bulk of the story is about basketball, I’d have put it back on the shelf. But oh, this book is – yes, about basketball, but it’s about a place in time in Montana, a few decades ago, when a tiny town supported their high school team. It’s about a dream. About the town who believed in them. About a tall young man who comes to lives in the town, and his deliverance, really, from a pretty awful background as he plays basketball, when he’d never played before. It’s about relationships, marriages, families and about how this little team makes it. Such a great story and SO glad I read it.

A Girl Called Samson, by Amy Harmon. I’m a fan of anything written by Harmon, and this one delivered as all her books do. 1760, Massachusetts. Deborah Samson is an indentured servant but yearns for independence. From being a rather tall, skinny kid (a girl) to faking it as a young soldier (a young man) in the Continental army. You’ll marvel at her ability to hide her true self. It’s quite a story. She’s thrown into the worst of situations in the war and comes through with flying colors. You’ll find yourself rooting for her and also fearing mightily that she’s going to either get killed, or be “found out,” by some of the men. Riveting story beginning to end. There’s a love interest here too which is very sweet.

On Mystic Lake, by Kristin Hannah. This is a book Hannah wrote some years ago, and tells the story of a woman, Annie, who finds out (on the day their daughter goes off to a foreign land for an exchange quarter) that her husband is in love with another woman and leaves her. Annie, who has been the quintessential perfect corporate wife, is devastated. She felt blind-sided. She cries and wallows, but eventually she returns home to her small town, where her widowed dad lives, in Washington. There she runs into many people she knew and at first feels very out of place. Slowly, she finds the town more welcoming and she helps a previous boyfriend, now widowed with his young daughter. A connection is there. Annie has to find herself, and she definitely does that. Her husband rears his head (of course he does!) after several months, and Annie has to figure out what to do. I don’t want to give away the story. Lots of twists and turns.

The Vineyard, by Barbara Delinsky. A novel with many current day issues. Husband and wife own a vineyard in Rhode Island. Husband dies. Widow soon (too soon) marries the manager, a hired employee, much to the consternation of her two grown children. Widow hires woman as personal assistant (much of the book comes from her voice) and she gets entangled into the many webs, clinging from the many decades the winery has tried to be successful. Really interesting. Lots of plot twists, but all revolving around work of the vineyard. Cute love story too. It wouldn’t be a Delinsky book without that aspect.

Consequences, Penelope Lively. I’ve always loved this author’s writing style. Have read many of her books. This one follows a rather dotted line family, the women, as they grow through worn-torn London and England. There’s poverty and both major events and minor ones that send the story’s trajectory in new directions. Riveting for me. Lively won the Booker Prize for Moon Tiger, her most famous book.

Below Zero, C.J. Box. Mystery of the first order. A Joe Pickett novel (he’s a game warden in Wyoming) with a family member thought dead is suddenly alive. Or is she? Joe’s on the hunt to find out. I don’t read these books at night – too scary. I love his books, though.

Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga, by Sylvain Tesson. I’m not sure what possessed me to read this book. About a late 30s guy who seems to crave solitude; he’s offered a 11×11 cabin in the cold/frozen Siberian outback, on a huge lake that freezes over in winter. Here’s a quote from the book: “A visit to my wooden crates. My supplies are dwindling. I have enough pasta left for a month and Tabasco to drench it in. I have flour, tea and oil. I’m low on coffee. As for vodka, I should make it to the end of April.” Vodka plays large in this book. Tesson (who is French, with Russian heritage) is a gifted writer, about the wilderness, the flora and fauna, about the alone-ness, the introspection. Mostly he ate pasta with Tabasco. No other sauce. Many shots of vodka every day. Drunkenness plays a serious role too – what else is there to do, you might ask? He lived there for about a year. I’d have lasted a week, no more.

The Auburn Conference by Tom Piazza. Another one, given my druthers I’m not sure I’d have picked up. For one of my book clubs. Excellent writing. 1883, upstate NY. A young professor decides to make a name for himself and puts on an event, inviting many literary luminaries of the day (Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, Forrest Taylor and a romance novelist [the outlier] Lucy Comstock). Part panel discussion, part private conversations, the author weaves a tale of discord, some moderate yelling, some rascism and much ridicule of the romance novelist. Also some words of wisdom, maybe not from the authors you’d have expected. Unusual book.

As Bright as Heaven, by Susan Meissner. 1918. Philadelphia. About a young family arriving with the highest of hopes. Then the Spanish Flu hits and dashes everything. You’ll learn a whole lot about that particular virulent flu and the tragic aftermath. Really good read.

Hour of the Witch, by Chris Bohjalian. Boston, 1662. A young woman becomes the 2nd wife of a powerful man, a cruel man. She determines to leave him, something just “not done” back then. Twists and turns, she’s accused of being a witch. Story of survival, and a redeeming love too.

My Oxford Year, by Julia Whelan. At 24, a young woman is honored with a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford. She’s older than most of her fellow classmates, and as an American, doesn’t fit in very well. She’s left a good job back home, but determines to try to work some for the political campaign job she’s left, and also do the work for her Oxford scholarship. She meets a professor. Oh my. Such an interesting book. I loved learning about the culture of Oxford, and there’s a fascinating romance too, somewhat a forbidden one with said professor.

Madame Pommery, by Rebecca Rosenberg. I love champagne. Have read a number of books over the years (novels) about the region (and I’ve visited there once). This is real history, though in a novelized form. Madame Pommery was widowed, and determined she would blaze a trail that was not well received (no women in the champagne business for starters). And she decides to make a different, less sweet version. She’s hated and reviled, but sticks to her guns, veering away from the then very sweet version all the winemakers were producing. Fascinating story.

The Wager, by David Grann. A true tale of shipwreck, mutiny and murder back in the 1740s. Not exactly my usual genre of reading, but once I heard about the book, I decided I needed to read it. This is a novelized version of the story, based on the facts of an English shipwreck, first off Brazil, then later off Chile. Of the men, their struggle to survive (and many didn’t). Yes, there’s murder involved, and yes, there’s mutiny as well. Those who survived stood trial back in England many years later. Riveting read.

Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate. 1939. A shantyboat in the backwaters of the Mississippi River. A 12-year old girl is left to care for her younger siblings when her mother is taken ill. A mystery ensues, and soon officials chase these youngsters to take them into an orphanage, one that became infamous for “selling” the children, weaving wild tales of their provenance. Dual timeline, you read about a successful young attorney who returns home to help her father, and questions come up about the family history. Fascinating read. You’ll learn about this real abominable woman, Georgia Tann, who profited by her “sales.”

The Vaster Wilds, by Lauren Goff. This tells the story of a young servant girl, in the aftermath of the starvation in Jamestown, the beleaguered town that virtually disappeared because the people weren’t prepared for the harshness of survival in those days. She escapes before the demise of the town and heads west, with nothing but the clothes she’s wearing. She survives longer than you might think, and encounters a lot of interesting experiences and people. Very interesting historical read.

Lady Tan’s Circle of Woman, Lisa See. Historical fiction, from 1469, Ming Dynasty, China. Based on the true story, however, about a young woman mostly raised by her grandmother who is a well known physician. Her grandfather is a scholarly physician, her grandmother, more an herbalist, or like a pharmacist of the day. Tan eventually marries into a family and is immediately subjugated by the matriarch, who won’t allow her to practice any of her healing arts. Quite a story, and also about how she eventually does treat women (women “doctors” were only allowed to treat women) as a midwife and herbalist. You’ll learn a whole lot about the use of flowers and herbs for healing and about the four humors.

Winter Garden, by Kristen Hannah. Quite a story, taking place in Washington State with apple orchards forming a backdrop and family business. Two sisters, never much friends even when they were young, return home to help care for their ailing father. Their mother? What an enigma. She took no part in raising them, yet she lived in the home. She cooked for the family, but rarely interacted. Yet her father adored his wife, their mother. How do they bridge the gulf between each other and also with their mother. Another page turner from Kristen Hannah.

Trail of the Lost, by Andrea Lankford. Not my usual genre. This is nonfiction, about Lankford who has plenty of credentials for rescue services, and is an avid hiker herself, determines to try to find some missing people who have disappeared off the face of the earth on the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s about how rescues work, everything from the disconnect between active citizens who want to help, and seemingly the unwillingness of authorities to share information. Not exactly a positive for law enforcement in this book. Really fascinating. There are hundreds of people who have disappeared off various long hike trails in the U.S. This is about four who were hiking (separately and at different times) on the PCT.

Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin. I’ve never been a “gamer.” Not by any standard definition, anyway. Not like people who really get into games, adventure, killers, etc. And this book isn’t a game .. . but it’s a novel (and a great story, I might add) about how these games come into being. How they’re invented, how they morph. First there were two college students, then a third person is added, and they end up creating a wildly popular game. A company is born. And it goes from there. Mostly it’s about the people, their relationships, but set amidst the work of creating and running a gaming company. Not all fun and games, pun intended.

Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt. Oh gosh, what a fabulous book. It’s a novel; however, much of the story is about the intelligence of octopus. In particular this one, Marcellus, who lives in an aquarium in a fictitious town in western Washington State. More than anything the book is about relationships, not only Marcellus with a woman (of a certain age) who cleans the aquarium at night, but the various people in this small town.

Trust, by Herman Diaz. This novel is an enigma in so many ways. It’s a book, within a book, within a book. About the stock market crash back in 1929, but it’s about a man. Oh my. It’s really interesting. This book won the Pulitzer. That’s why I bought it.

Cassidy Hutchinson is a young woman (a real one) who works in politics or “government.” She’s worked for some prestigious Washington politicians, and ended up working for Trump. The book is a memoir of her short spin working at the highest levels, and obviously at the White House. She worked under Mark Meadows and suffered a lot of ridicule when she quit. Truth and lies . . . when she couldn’t live with herself and subvert the truth. Enough, gives you plenty of detail leading up to and after the January 6th uprising. She testified to Congress about what she knew. Really interesting. I almost never read books about politics because I think many (most?) of our elected politicians succumb to the lure of power and forget who they work for, us, the public.

Becoming Dr. Q, by Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, MD, is an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery and Oncology at Johns Hopkins University. This is his memoir about how he went from being a penniless migrant from Mexico to one of the world’s most renowned experts in brain tumors.

The Invincible Miss Cust, by Penny Haw.  In 1868 Ireland, a woman wasn’t allowed to attend veterinary school, much less become a veterinarian. It took  years of trying (to the horror of her aristocratic family) and finally someone took her under their wing, she enrolled using a pseudonym (a name not revealing her gender). This is a true story of Aleen Isabel Cust, who did just that.

Her Heart for a Compass, by Sarah Ferguson (yes), the Duchess of York. I was pleasantly surprised as I read this book that it wasn’t the usual romantic romp – there’s more to this story than you might think. Ferguson utilizes some of her family ancestors as real characters in the book. Sweet story but with lots of twists and turns.

Someone Else’s Shoes, by Jojo Moyes.Nisha, our heroine, is a wealthy socialite. She thinks her life is perfect. At the gym someone else grabs her gym bag, so she grabs the similar one. Then she finds out her husband is leaving her and he’s locked her out of their high-rise apartment. She’s penniless. No attorney will take her on. She has nothing but this gym bag belonging to someone else (who?).

The Eleventh Man, Ivan Doig. What a story. Ben, part of a Montana college football team in the 1940s, joins the service during WWII. So do all of his eleven teammates. After suffering some injuries in pilot training he is recruited by a stealthy military propaganda machine. His job is to write articles about his teammates as they are picked off at various battle theaters around the Pacific and Europe. Ben goes there, in person, to fuel the stories. Ivan Doig is a crafty writer; I’ve read several of his books, my favorite being The Whistling Season.

Wavewalker, by Suzanne Heywood. Oh my goodness. A memoir about a very young English girl who goes off with her besotted and narcissistic parents and her brother on a years-long sailing journey supposedly following the route of James Cook. A very old, decrepit 70-foot schooner. Four people, 2 sort-of adults and 2 children. Sometimes a helper or two. A seasick mother. A dad who is driven to the extreme, whatever the damage he creates. She spent 10 years aboard.

Claire Keegan wrote Small Things Like These. It’s won a lot of awards, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Takes place in Ireland. Some profound questions come up in this novella, about complicity, about restitution. There’s a convent nearby, and attached one of those places young girls were sent if they found themselves “in the family way,” and about how the church helped, supposedly, by taking the children and placing them in homes, without consent. It’s ugly, the truth of the matter. Really good read.

Nicholas Sparks isn’t an author I read very often because his books are pretty sappy, but daughter Sara recommended this one, The Longest Ride. It begins with Ira (age 93), stuck in his car as it plunges off the edge of a road, and it’s snowing. As the hours tick by, he reminisces about his life.

The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind, by Barbara Lipska. Interesting that I’ve read two books recently about the brain (see Doctor Q above). This is a true story about a woman, a neuroscientist, who developed a metastatic melanoma in the brain.

The Price of Inheritance, by Karin Tanabe. This is a mystery, of sorts. Our heroine is an up and coming employee at Christie’s (auction house). In bringing a large collection of expensive art to auction, she makes a misstep about the provenance of a desk. She’s fired. She goes back to her roots, takes a job at a small antique store where she used to work.

The Covenant of Water, by Abraham Verghese. Did you read Cutting for Stone, years ago, by this author? Such a good book, so I knew I’d enjoy this one, and oh, did I!. The book takes place in a little known area of southern India, and chronicles a variety of people over a few generations, who inhabit the place.

Finding Dorothy, by Elizabeth Letts. My friend Dianne recommended this book to me, and it was so special. Loved it beginning to end. It’s based on the story of 77-year old Maud Gage Baum (her husband Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz).

The Bandit Queens, by Parini Shroff. It’s about a young Indian woman, Geeta, as she tries her best to make a living after her husband leaves her. Yet the community she lives in, thinks Geeta murdered him.

Attribution, by Linda Moore. We follow art historian Cate, as she struggles to succeed in her chosen field against sexist advisors. She finds what she thinks is a hidden painting.

The Measure, Nikki Erlick. Oh my goodness. This story grabbed me from about the third sentence. Everyone in the world finds a wooden box on their doorstep, or in front of their camper or tent, that contains a string. Nothing but a string. The author has a vivid imagination (I admire that) and you just will not believe the various reactions (frenzy?) from people who are short-stringers, or long-stringers.

The Book Spy by Alan Hlad. True stories, but in novel form, of a special Axis group of men and women librarians and microfilm specialists, sent to strategic locations in Europe to acquire and scour newspapers, books, technical manuals and periodicals, for information about German troop locations, weaponry and military plans of WWII. I was glued to the book beginning to end. Fascinating accounts.

A Dangerous Business, Jane Smiley. What a story. 1850s gold rush, story of two young prostitutes, finding their way in a lawless town in the Wild West. There’s a murder, or two, or three, or some of the town’s prostitutes, and the two women set out to solve the crime.

Storm Watch, by C. J. Box. I’m such a fan of his tales of Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett’s adventures catching criminals. Loved it, just like I’ve loved every one of his books.

Defiant Dreams, by Sola Mahfouz. True story about the author, born in Afghanistan in 1996. This is about her journey to acquire an education. It’s unbelievable what the Taliban does to deter and forbid women from bettering themselves.

Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This is fairly light read, a novel – but interesting, about the meaning behind many flowers.

The Rome Apartment, by Kerry Fisher. Such a cute story. Maybe not an interesting read for a man. It’s about Beth, whose husband has just left her, and her daughter has just gone off to college. Beth needs a new lease on life, so she rents a room from a woman who lives in Rome.

All the Beauty in the World, a memoir by Patrick Bringley. Absolutely LOVED this book. Bringley was at loose ends and accepted a job as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. He’d been a journalist at The New Yorker magazine, but after his brother was ill and died, he needed refreshing. After his training at the museum, he moves from room to room, guarding the precious art, and learning all about the pieces and the painters or sculptors.

The Queen’s Lady, by Joanna Hickson. I love stories about Tudor England, and this one didn’t disappoint. Joan Guildford is a lady in waiting to Queen Elizabeth. Oh my goodness are there twists and turns.

Once in awhile I’m ready to read another Louise Penny mystery. This time it was World of Curiosities. Usually I’d write something wonderful regarding “another tome about Three Pines.” Not going to say it this time. Three Pines becomes a sinister place. Murders (many).

Over the years I’ve read many of Jodi Picoult’s books. This, her newest, or very new, is called Mad Honey. Oh, my. This book is beyond Picoult’s usual borders, but then she always writes edgy books. That’s her genre. This one is written with a co-author, a woman who is gay (I think) and also a trans-gender.

Philippa Gregory is one of my fav authors. Just finished her 3rd (and last, I think) in the Fairmile series called Dawnlands. If you scroll down below you’ll find the 2nd book in the series, Tidelands. Very interesting about English history, but about the same families from the first book in the group. Loved it, as I loved all of them.

Am currently reading Rutherfurd’s long, long book, Paris. I love these involved historical novels about a place (he’s written many about specific places in the world). It’s a saga that goes back and forth in time, following the travails of various people and families, through thick and thin. Some of it during the era of the King Louis’ (plural, should I say Louies?). Very interesting about some of the city’s history and royalty.

Although this book says A Christmas Memory, by Richard Paul Evans, it’s not just about Christmas. A young boy is the hero here, but really an older widower man who lives next door plays a pivotal part of this book.

Wish You Were Here, by Jodi Picoult. Another page-turner. I loved this book. A thirty-something woman, about to take a trip with her boyfriend, when Covid breaks out. Covid plays a major role in this book, beginning to end. She decides to go anyway as her boyfriend is a doctor and cannot leave. She ends up on a remote Galapagos island, and you go along with her – with people she meets, the life she leads, the isolation she experiences, the loneliness she feels, but the joy of nature is a sustaining aspect.

Not everyone wants to read food memoirs. When I saw Sally Schmitt had written a memoir, titled Six California Kitchens, I knew I wanted to read it. I met Sally a few times over the years when I visited Napa Valley, and bought some of her famous pickled items, chutneys, jams, etc. She was the original chef at The French Laundry, before it became truly famous by Thomas Keller.

Being a fan of Vivian Howard (from her TV show), when I saw she’d written another book, I knew I should buy it. This Will Make It Taste Good is such an unusual name for a cookbook, but once you get into the groove of the book, you’ll understand. What’s here are recipes for some “kitchen heroes” she calls them. They’re condiments. They’re food additions, they’re flavor enhancers.

As soon as it came out, I ordered Spare, by Prince Harry. I’ve always been interested in the Royal Family.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. Usually I don’t seek out short stories. I might have purchased this book without realizing it was. There aren’t that many stories – each one gets you very ingrained in the characters. I love her writing, and would think each story in this book could be made into a full-fledged novel.

A Lantern in Her Hand, by Beth Streeter Aldrich. A very interesting and harrowing story of early pioneer days in the Midwest (Nebraska I think); covered wagon time up to about 80 years later as the heroine, Abbie Deal, and her husband start a family in a small town.

The Messy Lives of Book People, by Phaedra Patrick. From amazon’s page: Mother of two Liv Green barely scrapes by as a maid to make ends meet, often finding escape in a good book while daydreaming of becoming a writer herself. So she can’t believe her luck when she lands a job housekeeping for her personal hero, mega-bestselling author Essie Starling, a mysterious and intimidating recluse.

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. I’m a fan of this author and relished reading his book about a year in his personal life, with his wife and very new, newborn twins. Doerr was given an auspicious award – a year of study in Rome, with apartment and a stipend. There are four chapters, by season.

Kristin Hannah’s Distant Shores is quite a read. Some described it as like a soap opera. Not me. Interesting character development of a couple who married young. She put her own career/wants/desires aside to raise their children. He forged ahead with his life dreams. The children grow up and move on. Then he’s offered a huge promotion across the country. She’s torn – she doesn’t want to be in New York, but nothing would get in the way of his career.

Oh, William! by Elizabeth Strout. Lucy Barton is divorced. But she’s still sort of friendly with her ex. It’s complicated. Out of the blue he asks her to go on a trip with him to discover something about his roots.

Tidelands,  by Philippa Gregory. It tells the tale of a peasant woman, Alinor (an herbalist and midwife), who lives barely above the poverty level, trying to raise two children, during the time of great turmoil in England, the rancorous civil war about Charles 1.

Read Reminders of Him, by Colleen Hoover. A page turner of a story. A young woman is convicted of a crime (young and foolish type). Once released her sole purpose is to be a part of her daughter’s life.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. Oh my goodness. The wicked webs we weave. How in the world did the author even come UP with this wild story, but she did, and it kept me glued. Sophie walked away from her wedding day, and always wondered if she made the wrong decision.

Very funny and poignant story, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that one). Mrs. Palfrey, a woman of a certain age, moves into an old folks’ home in London. It’s a sort of hotel, but has full time elderly quirky residents.

For one of my book clubs we read Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. This book is so hard to describe. Elizabeth is a wizard at chemistry and struggles to be recognized for her intelligence and research. She meets a man at her company who is brilliant too. They make quite a pair. They have a child, then he suddenly dies. Her work isn’t taken seriously, so she leaves her employment and becomes an overnight phenom on a cooking show where she uses the chemical names for things like sodium chloride, etc. You go alongside her struggles, and her raising of her daughter. LOTS of humor, lots to discuss for a book club.

Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loved it from the first page to the last. Sad when it ended. It’s a fictional creation but based on a real racehorse owned by a black man, back in the 1850s. Technically, the story is about a painting of the horse but there are many twists and turns. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brooks’ books in the past, this one won’t disappoint.

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel (no, not Hannah). Certainly a little-known chunk of history about a woman who becomes a master forger during WWII to help get Jewish children out of France. Not easy to read, meaning the difficulty of anyone finding the means and place to DO the forgery and right under the noses of the Nazis. Really good read.

Liane Moriarty’s first novel, Three Wishes, follows the travails of adult triplets, so different, yet similar in many ways. Two are identical, the third is not. So alike, and so not. It takes you through a series of heart-wrenching events, seemingly unrelated, but ones that could bring a family to its breaking point and test the bonds of love and strength.

Recently I’ve read both of Erin French’s books, her cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, and since then her memoir, Finding Freedom. About her life growing up (difficult) about her coming of age mostly working in the family diner, flipper burgers and fries (and learning how much she liked to cook). Now she’s a very successful restaurant entrepreneur (The Lost Kitchen is also the name of her restaurant) in the minuscule town of Freedom, Maine. She’s not a classically trained chef, but she’s terrifically creative. See her TV series on Discover+ if you subscribe.

Jo Jo Moyes has a bunch of books to her credit. And she writes well, with riveting stories. Everything I’ve read of hers has been good. This book, The Girl You Left Behind, is so different, so intriguing, so controversial and a fascinating historical story. There are two timelines here, one during WWI, in France, when a relatively unknown painter (in the style of Matisse) paints a picture of his wife. The war intervenes for both the husband and the wife.

Eli Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees. This book was just a page turner. If you’ve never read anything about the conflict in Cyprus (the island) between the Turks and the Greeks, you’re in for a big history lesson here. But, the entire story centers around a fig tree. You get into the head/brain/feelings of this big fig tree which plays a very central part of the story. You’ll learn a lot about animals, insects (ants, mosquitos, butterflies) and other flora and fauna of Cyprus.

Also read Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Ohhh my, such a good book. I couldn’t put it down. Whatever you do, do not read the ending before you start the book. I’ve never understood people who do this. The book chronicles the day a mom just ups and disappears. The grown children come back home, in panic. The dad isn’t much help, and he becomes the prime suspect of foul play. There is no body, however.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

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.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words:

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, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

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 Uncategorized, on May 22nd, 2021.

These tacos arrive with the warmer weather and fresh fruit!

This is a post from Karen.  While there are dishes I rely on often, I allow a lot of my menus to be dictated by what is fresh for that season.  This week fresh mango and papaya wandered into my kitchen, bringing with them the memory of yummy light fish tacos we had done the last time they came to visit. Fortunately, I had some fresh-frozen cod in my freezer.  I’ve used sole in the past, but have been wanting to find more ways to work cod into our menu.  In this preparation, working from frozen is nice because after just a little thaw I can slice them more easily into uniform pieces for more even cooking.
I like that this dish doesn’t take long and that the salsa and fish can be prepped a few hours ahead to come together quickly later.  The Peruvian Chile Lime seasoning from Savory Spice is used for both the fish and the salsa.  I also love adding some to my fresh guacamole.  If you don’t have access to that feel free to try your own spice blend!  New for me this time was the Cholula Green Pepper Hot Sauce, thanks to my son who added it to my cart the last time we were at the market.  I have to be careful how often he goes with me, he can be a very enthusiastic shopper, but if I think he is going overboard I just tell him he can have it if he can pay for it…The sauce has quite a kick, and I loved topping my taco with a few shakes from the bottle.  Since jalapeno heat can vary, the amount I put in can adjust as needed.  Today’s batch was pretty mild, I could have safely added a third.

What’s GOOD:  An easy sell to Powell and Vaughan!  Comes together quickly, but if REALLY short on time Salsa can be prepped ahead.  Can substitute other white fish. Could change out tortillas for lettuce cups if still working off those Pandemic Pounds….like I am…

What’s NOT: People who don’t like fish.  erase erase erase, just kidding.  It’s a winner in our house.

printer-friendly PDF and Master Cook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cod Tacos with Mango Papaya Salsa

Recipe By: Karen’s Inspiration
Serving Size: 5

MANGO AND PAPAYA SALSA
1 cup mango — peeled and cut in 1/2 inch dice
1 cup papaya — peeled and cut in 1/2 inch dice
1 cup red onion — cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 cup cilantro — roughly chopped
2 jalapenos — minced
2 limes
1 teaspoon salt — or to taste
Savory Spice brand Peruvian Chili Lime Seasoning, about 1 teaspoon or to taste
TACOS
20 Ounces cod fillets — sole works great too, cubed small
1/2 teaspoon salt Savory Spice brand Peruvian Chili Lime Seasoning, about 1 teaspoon or to taste
1 tablespoon oil — grape seed or EVOO both work great
12 corn tortillas
CONDIMENTS: Hot Sauce (Cholula Green Pepper recommended), Sour Cream, Lime wedges, Cubed Avocado Note, may need to use two tortillas per taco if too fragile with one.

1. Prepare the salsa ingredients, combine and set aside.
2. Evenly distribute the seasoning over the cut fish.
3. Heat saute pan with oil on medium heat and saute the fish until opaque, about 4 minutes
4. Heat tortillas, I microwaved 6 at a time in a tortilla warmer for two rounds of 30 seconds on high.
5. Divide fish among the 12 tortillas, top each taco with 2-3 tablespoons salsa and garnish as desired.
Note: The Chalula Green Pepper has a kick. Serve immediately. Serving Ideas : Can make Salsa several hours ahead. Fish can be cut and seasoned hours ahead, ready to saute.
Per Serving: 317 Calories; 6g Fat (15.2% calories from fat); 25g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 49mg Cholesterol; 792mg Sodium; 14g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 101mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 855mg Potassium; 443mg Phosphorus. 

Posted in Uncategorized, on May 16th, 2021.

Hi there, I’m Karen.  I have enjoyed being Carolyn’s daughter-in-law for almost 20 years now.  Both sides of our family enjoy getting in the kitchen.  I love the holidays as much for enjoying what everyone brings to the table as I do for how it can bring us all together.  My husband, Powell, and I have one son, Vaughan and you will likely see our Bernese Mountain Dog, Shelby from time to time. (Yes, I have to sweep the Shelby hair out of the kitchen before I start cooking!) As you have seen from Carolyn’s previous entries, we are doing what we can to encourage Vaughan’s confidence in the kitchen too!

In addition to enjoying the kitchen, I teach piano and enjoy reading, camping, fishing, gardening, volunteering on the school district foundation, and a number of winter sports.  I used to do Tae Kwon Do regularly until my body decided I would have some arthritis in my hip.  So….I’ve adjusted my sights.  But I do miss that one!

Customers never saw the lovely backside of this machine. It had to face the wall in Dad’s shop.

So, what is with the picture of the espresso maker?  When Powell and I were getting married, my Dad had just retired from running his coffee business of 13 years.  I was visiting my parents one day, standing in the garage with my dad, who had just asked what I would like for a wedding present.  I looked over at the professional copper espresso maker just sitting in his garage and said – If that is going to just sit in here, I’d love the Espresso Machine!”  My soon-to-be husband thought I was nuts…until a few years later when we had the opportunity to install it and get it back in action.  I can’t say it is practical but it comes with a lot of great memories from my Dad’s store and has helped us create even more as we gather with friends and family.

I look forward to sharing my kitchen exploits with you- recipes coming soon!

Posted in Uncategorized, on April 22nd, 2021.

Unbeknownst to all of you readers, there’s been a problem brewing behind the “face” of my blog. Some hackers have created a robotic script and have been trying to gain access to my blog.  Trying to take it down – just for the fun of it. No, we don’t know where they’re from. It’s a game to them – to try to access blogs or websites, go in and destroy stuff, so the website can’t operate. Such hackers are wreaking havoc all over the world doing this – it’s not just me or my blog. Once the blog is taken down by the hackers, the owner has to have a programmer recreate it to get it up and running again. You can’t prevent them from trying, although I’ve done various things to discourage the attempts. But they keep trying. Last month I had over 360,000 attempts to get into my blog. Can you imagine? Good thing I have a really strong password. Makes me think I need to create a new password that’s at least 160 characters long. With numerous numbers, symbols, capitol letters, etc. You know the drill on that stuff.

The problem was that all that robotic scripting (the login attempts) ran up my GPU usage, and I got dinged to the tune of about $50 last month on overage fees. Dang! So I had to take a hard look at my blog. Did I really want to keep doing this, running up these charges. Sara posts when she can, but she’s so busy at her full time job, she rarely has time, or remembers to take pictures of what she creates. Hard to do a post without a picture. So I’d almost decided I was going to close/shut my blog down altogether. But NO, I’m not.

I looked into some options, and have decided to move the blog to a different platform that doesn’t charge extra for those GPU overages. And, on top of that, my daughter in law, Karen, has decided that she’d really like to be part of the blog herself. She and Powell, and their son Vaughan, are all foodies of the first order. I’ve posted many recipes from Karen, or Powell, and some months ago I posted two recipes from Vaughan (13) who stayed with me for a few days.

Which means that I will be taking a more back-seat role here. After 14 years of food blogging, I’m cooking less, although I have to say I still feel that pressure to keep trying new recipes that might be blog-worthy. Sometimes they’re successes, sometimes not. Do I eat out much? No, not really, and not-at-all during this last Covid-year. Do I buy ready-made food? No, not at all. On a regular basis I eat a big green salad (with some kind of protein on it) about 6 evenings a week. Can’t really blog much about that, now can I?

I’ll still blog – I’m sure of it – because when I do make something new and fun, I’ll want to tell you about it. As I’ve explained before, when that happens, my fingers “itch” to get to the keyboard to tell all of you about it. Surely that will still happen.

As the next few weeks go by, I’ll introduce you to Karen, and Powell, and Vaughan, and hopefully going forward, you’ll get to know Karen’s cooking style. And Sara will chime in now and then too. I think I’m going to Powell & Karen’s for Mother’s Day, so perhaps we’ll take pictures and do a blog post from there. I need to spend some concentrated one-on-one time with Karen to acquaint her with how to blog.

There will be a difference on the posting face  – we’re going to simplify how recipes are posted. Neither Sara nor Karen want to fuss with the programming stuff (that I do because I like the recipe to look “pretty) to create a box that goes around a recipe. Nor do they want to pdf or create a MasterCook file, either. So it’ll be a post (the narrative) plus a recipe. You’ll want to cut and paste it to use somehow. To make my blog more print-easy, would require major programming – an expense I’m not willing to take on. Remember, I don’t take any advertising on my blog, so anything I do is out-of-pocket. My pocket.

In the next week or so my blog will migrate to a different server – hopefully you’ll never notice a difference, although at some point the blog will be off line for a short while, I suppose. They say they’ll do it at night so you’d not notice. We’ll see how that part goes.

. . . Carolyn T

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 23rd, 2020.

christmas_family_room

My family room – I should have lit the gas logs . . .

Recalling back many years ago when I first began reading blogs (about 2005, I think) I was always intrigued when the writer shared some little window into their family life. Whether it was a man, a woman, a couple, or a family. So here, above, you can see a little window into my world. My family room. Love my tree. It’s one I bought many years ago that comes in a flat box and you pick it up from the top, insert two interconnected metal tubes inside and set it into the stand. Plug it in, and it’s all ready for Christmas. My trick is trying to keep my kitty from playing with the lower edges. I’ve had to stack piles of cookbooks around the bottom to keep him from doing that. And I’ve had to resort to spraying him with water to keep him away. Poor little guy. His world is kind of narrow – he’s blind – and so anything at all that comes into the house that’s different is inherently fascinating to him. His sense of hearing is profound. And sense of smell. So this foreign “thing” that suddenly comes into his world once a year just has him intrigued. Now I have gifts stacked around the edges, so it’s even harder for him to try to reach the lower part. He likes to chew on artificial flowers or greenery, so obviously this tree meets all of his requirements!

perched_near_keyboard

There’s Angel (age 3) – he rarely perches himself next to my keyboard. In case you don’t remember, Angel was about 5 weeks old and was found one rainy night in a gutter, shivering and hungry. He had pneumonia, but he recovered. The vet said the mother cat probably abandoned him (presumably because of his blindness). He developed an eye infection en utero, so his eye socket is partially visible, but his eyes receded. He has no sight at all. But he doesn’t know better – he has a good life! Never fear. He knows every square inch of my house. Occasionally he accidentally runs into a wall, but his whiskers are his radar and as long as he’s not trotting too fast, his whiskers barely tell him to deflect and not run into a wall. He’s learned that warmth (the sun) comes through the front door and in the afternoons when the sun is streaming in, he knows to find a warm spot to sit.

Back to the picture at top .. . Most evenings you’ll find me sitting at right on the sofa (the sofa is covered with a blanket because Angel loves to sharpen his claws on the sofa itself). I do my every-other-day outdoor 30-minute walking routine around my house at about 4 pm, while it’s still light, but the sun has nearly waned. If I go later in the day I don’t have to put on sun screen. Once back in my house I give Angel his evening dinner, pour myself a cocktail or a glass of wine (most nights anyway), and I watch the network news. I was watching the weather report on tv last night when I decided to take this picture. We are supposed to have rain this weekend. Wow – first real rain of the winter.

island_xmas_decorOn Friday, Christmas Day, I’ll be home by myself. My cousin Gary, who usually spends Thanksgiving and Christmas with me (he lives in Northern California) isn’t coming south this year because of Covid. Daughter Sara invited me to come for Christmas Day with them, but decided not to.

Because – the next day I’m driving to Palm Desert and will meet Sara and her family there. The three of us have just bought a small 2-bedroom condo, and it’ll be our first visit to the house since closing escrow. It’s fully furnished, so all we have to do is move in our clothes and food, and we’re all set. I’ll take some pictures once we have it situated. If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, early on, my DH Dave and I still owned a house in the desert. We sold it in 2010 because Dave couldn’t play golf anymore, and it was a big house to manage. Even though it was the right choice at the time, I’ve missed having a place there. I’ve shared pictures of staying at a friend’s home there for a week every winter for the last several. It was staying in Maggie’s house there that got me strongly interested.

Anyway, real estate in California is just going crazy. Hard to believe, but true. Anyway, we found the right place (just like Maggie’s) for us and now I’ll be able to go stay there whenever I want to. The condo is over 30 years old, but has two 18-hole golf courses on it, and every home has a golf course view. Ours doesn’t have a water view, unfortunately. Sara and John need a get-away from their stressful work week. I’ll use it more on weekdays, and they’ll use it almost exclusively on weekends. Sometimes we’ll both be there. We plan on having a steak dinner on Saturday, grilled on the outdoor grill that we hope is working properly (the home inspection didn’t include outdoor equipment, like the golf cart, the fire pit and the barbecue).

My grandson John returns to Virginia Tech in early January, so he’s hyped up about playing golf before he heads east. He’s definitely got some of his Grandpa Dave’s genes – he loves playing golf. And we’ll likely take drives in the golf cart to acquaint ourselves with the neighborhood. It’s a gated community, just like the place Dave and I owned, but a different one. There are numerous neighborhood pools dotted all over, many tennis courts, plus a clubhouse and dining area. I wasn’t thrilled with the food when my friend Ann and I ate there, so don’t know that we’ll use it much.

believe

Yes, I believe. Remember the reason for the season, my friends.

Thank you for reading my blog and hope you enjoyed this little window into my world.

Posted in Uncategorized, on January 14th, 2020.

You’re probably wondering, what? What does that mean? I toyed with “the curvy road becomes straight,” and “food enlightenment.” But they were out there. All the title means is that I’ve stopped eating the Plant Paradox diet. It’s possible I mentioned awhile back that I was getting very frustrated with the plan and my cravings for bread and an occasional dessert were vexing me a lot. It’s been 2 years. Once in awhile I did have dessert, but very little. And a couple of times in the 2 years I had something containing wheat flour. Well anyway, I was doing some research online and found a blog post by someone who was confounded by the whole notion of lectins in our bloodstream and the Plant Paradox plan. I began looking at more contrarian websites or posts here and there. What I discovered is that the eminent Dr. Gundry doesn’t always do his homework, OR he is vague about his sources. One learned scientist chastised him about being obtuse in his footnotes (you’re supposed to put chapter and page numbers when you use other studies as the basis for a thesis or medical theory, and he doesn’t do that at all). Apparently many of his footnote sites (of studies done by medical schools, etc.) don’t seem to exist. The final one I read that set me back on a more normal food track was a site that said Gundry drew a conclusion about human intestinal biology from reading a study of worms. Now worms are biologic, I know, but how can you say that if something happens to the gut of a worm and then conclude that the same thing happens in humans without having done the research on humans. And Gundry never disclosed that the study was of worms. I think that’s dirty pool. Maybe I was just “looking” for a reason to quit this diet. I haven’t vetted Dr. Gundry’s footnotes and don’t intend to. So I’m choosing to believe the contrarians. I could be wrong . . .

The truth is that I never did have intestinal difficulty as many people do who go on this diet. People with IBS or similar conditions, well, that’s another story. Maybe they should be following his diet. I didn’t and don’t, so I’ve gone back to drinking regular cow’s milk. I’m eating cheddar (yea!) and BREAD. I went right off the deep end a few days ago and had a delicious tuna sandwich on still-warm sourdough bread. With Best Foods mayo. Oh my, died and went to heaven. And I can have beans/legumes. And there’s squash in my refrigerator (zucchini). Next will be green beans. Gosh, did I miss green beans. Who’d have thought . . .

At the beginning of the diet I did lose 25 pounds. In the last month I’ve gained 3 pounds, so am not sure if it’s the bread, or what. I made tapioca pudding the other day, although I did use artificial sweetener in it. I’m still eating low carb, and will just need to be judicious about what carbs I do eat. And originally I thought the diet would be forever, because of wanting to improve my heart health. I don’t have a problem, but I have heart disease in my family. So, perhaps I’m shortening my life, per Dr. Gundry’s theories. We’ll see what my next blood work looks like. In the meantime I’m paying no attention whatsoever to lectins.

I made one of my old standby favorites, Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls. Used beef and pork, and made it in the Instant Pot. Used artificial brown sugar. Hmm. It was not very good. Maybe artificial sugar breaks down under pressure. Next I’m craving some chili (with a few red kidney beans in it). Tonight I’m going out to eat with a friend and we’re going to have Mexican food. I haven’t had any for 2 years. I think I’m ordering a chile relleno and a cheese enchilada. At least that’s the plan.

And, in March I’ll be giving up my job as President of my PEO chapter after two years. I’m very ready to step down and turn it over to someone else. So hopefully I’ll have more time. To cook. And blog.

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 28th, 2019.

wine_slogan

I don’t think I’ve posted a picture of this before. Bought the sign when daughter Sara, grandson John and I were on our cross country trip to deliver John to Virginia Tech. Found this at the gift shop at The Biltmore (Asheville, NC). My DH Dave would have absolutely loved this sign. He had a saying – – – don’t ever let a few facts get in the way of a good story. So when I saw this sign, there was no question I was buying it!

The photo was taken in my family room where I often sit and have a glass of wine in the evenings. Or a Fireball (like those?). Or a Fireball with a shot or two of Rumchata (oh my goodness, one of my favorites). Or an occasional Bailey’s with or without coffee. Over the last month I’ve been enjoying Trader Joe’s spiked eggnog.

New Years’ Eve will be spent quietly, I expect. A toast to 2020 to all of you, my faithful readers, that it will be a good year.

Posted in Uncategorized, on December 18th, 2019.

Carolyn_1999_590

Oh my goodness – 1999. It was a good year.

Since I’ve been going through old photos – throwing out lots – archiving some – and scanning them in rather than keeping them in boxes and albums – I ran across this picture. Taken in my kitchen in the house we lived in before we bought this one in 2003. I wore glasses most of my life – until I had cataract surgery about 5 years ago, and now I don’t have to except to drive. My hair is more white now, although I think you can still tell I am/was a blonde. And there in the foreground a rose that my DH, Dave, had cut from our garden. He loved roses and would cut them and bring them to me wherever I was working in the house. This day, obviously, in the kitchen, and we were drinking red wine. Isn’t that wine glass a hoot? I think we left those glasses in our Palm Desert house when we sold it 10 or so years ago.

Christmas is a time when I feel nostalgic. I miss Dave so very much – it’s been nearly 6 years (in March). He was such a part of my life for 33 years, 31 of them married. We had so much fun entertaining here at home, or going out on the boat, sharing our love of red wine (I still have 200+ bottles in the cellar which I’m drinking, slowly but surely). We shared many activities at our church, and both of us sang in the choir for about 15 years. Dave also loved Christmas, as I do. As I write this, all my gifts are wrapped, Christmas cards have all been mailed, and I’m going to one of my book clubs this evening, for our annual potluck dinner, taking a salad (new recipe). If It’s good, I’ll share it with you in coming days. My cousin Gary is arriving on Monday to spend a week with me. We’ll be with daughter Sara for Christmas Day and the 26th also.

My daily food and cooking routine is kind of boring, although I’ve found a great chocolate chip cookie recipe that doesn’t contain wheat flour, since wheat products are a no-no on this Gundry diet I’m still on. I did make some delicious Indian Butter Chicken the other night. I’ll need to take a photo of it and could post it – made in the Instant Pot. I make lots of soups, but they’re ones I’ve made and posted, or they’re kind of boring and not worthy of a post. My normal dinner is salad with some kind of protein on it. I made my favorite sheet pan dinner the other night for a group of friends – it’s here on my blog already – Sheetpan Chicken with Sweet Potatoes, Sourdough Croutons and Squash. So delicious. And I’ve found that I can have small amounts of artisan sourdough on my diet. Yeah! I’m attending a family gathering on Saturday and will make the Bombay Cheese Ball and some kind of salad. The salad is also a new recipe – if it’s good I’ll post it. Maybe when I visit Sara next week I can get her to post something. She’s been baking up a storm (cookies that she gives to their customers).

Meanwhile, I hope each and every one of you has a very good holiday – whether it’s Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukah. I’m planning on having a wonderful time. And enjoying Trader Joe’s already bottled and spiked eggnog. Oh my, is it ever good. They’re totally sold out at my local store. Cheers!

Posted in Uncategorized, on September 2nd, 2019.

Hi everyone – Carolyn here . . .
Somewhere in New Mexico on I-40, the old Route 66

Not a whole lot of cooking has been going on in my kitchen, or Sara’s kitchen either, as we took a road trip from SoCal to Virginia, then to South Carolina, then flew home. Sara’s son John is now a freshman at Virginia Tech (bio-chem major, see picture below), so we delivered him there, driving across the hot-hot-hot southern route. The night we arrived in Scottsdale, at 7pm, it was 114 degrees. That was the highest temp we experienced, but as we drove east, the temp was slightly lower (under 100 for sure) but the humidity began to climb. We had a night in Santa Fe (more on that later), then to Amarillo, through Oklahoma City, overnight in Ft. Smith. Oh my. I think the hottest I felt was in Memphis with temps in the low 90s and 100% humidity. Cooler weather prevailed as we went through North Carolina and into Virginia (the eastern parts there are slightly mountainous and at a higher elevation).

We got John moved into his dorm, (his roommate Jaylon, is a freshman cheerleader) then headed to Asheville, NC. I treated Sara and me to a night at the Biltmore (we did that when we were scouting colleges 4 years ago with Sabrina). I was and am still in love with The Biltmore. We had been there in February before – gray, cloudy, rainy, icy and miserably cold, so this time it was mid-summer and we got to see the Biltmore Gardens in full bloom. Absolutely gorgeous. Sara and I had tea in the lounge (not the full afternoon tea, just a pot of TEA), had dinner at one of the restaurants on the Estate, then had lattes and a decadent flourless chocolate cake (yes, I ate some) on the terrace at the Inn as we watched the sunset. Oh my, again. So wonderful. I’d like to live there. On the Estate, of course! Ha!

Then we drove to South Carolina to deliver the 2001 Toyota we had driven across the country (that has really good A/C in it, thankfully) to Sabrina (the car is hers) who is a senior now at Clemson. We drove to Greenville, had dinner in the very quaint downtown there, got dropped off at an airport hotel and spent the night, then flew home.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been catching up. Made a new soup, not great, so won’t be posting that one. Sara and I both couldn’t wait to get back home to eat more healthy salads and things. We stayed in Hampton Inns mostly, and got overly weary of the rubbery, tasteless scrambled eggs on the breakfast buffet and sometimes fruit that had seen better days or had some kind of strange taste to them. Even the hard boiled eggs seemed to have zippo flavor. And never did they peel easily (obviously they don’t use the InstantPot method of pressure cooking hard boiled eggs which make for the easiest shell removal ever!). But hey, it was free with the overnight stay. Salads as I know them, filled with all kinds of vegetables, are virtually unknown to the restaurant world in the South. They know lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and bottled dressings mostly. Not my fav. No celery, no shredded or chopped carrots, no crumbled Feta or goat cheese, no radicchio or fennel, no fresh herbs, avocado, red or green cabbage either. I really missed them. If we were having a more upscale dinner, then yes some salads contained more ingredients, but we were traveling on a moderate budget, so rarely did we have nice salads. Just sayin’ . . . .

Several times Sara and I went to a grocery store and bought sliced Boar’s Head turkey, some fresh apples and a variety of cheeses and had that for dinner at our hotels. We traveled with a styrofoam ice chest in the back seat where we kept fruit (grapes, blueberries, cheese, a few diet sodas, water and apples). Perfectly satisfying. We stayed hydrated everywhere. I have a new, very tall Hydro Flask and at the hotels each morning I filled up my flask with purified water we found in the gym at every hotel, added some fruit flavor drops, topped with ice and that got me through most of the day. Lots of restroom breaks, however.

I’ll do another post with more pictures . . .

Posted in Desserts, Uncategorized, on August 11th, 2019.

The Right Way to Make Tres Leches Cake!

This cake is easy and delicious without the soggy mess. 

A post from Sara – I’ve made a few Tres Leches cakes in my time and have always been disappointed with the soggy mess left by the milk mixture.  Finally, I’ve found a cake that can stand up to the mixture and a trick to prevent the sogginess thanks to Ina Garten.   There is no butter or oil in this cake which, in my opinion, allows the cake to absorb it after baking.  I think traditionally the Tres Leche cake is frosted with either meringue or a whipped topping.  I love the simple square cut of the cake topped with whipped cream and berries.  It’s much easier to store and serve which makes it a perfect make-ahead dessert.  Just whip up the cream and toss the strawberries together before serving.  I used strawberries from Bonsall Farms here in Vista.  It’s a local grower and the berries are naturally sweet perfectly red all the way through.  I actually decided not to add the extra sugar into the berries.

The trick with this cake is to beat the sugar and eggs for 10 minutes.  Yes!  Really!  It leaves the eggs thick and fluffy and a pale yellow color.  Then add the milk and flour mixture alternately.  Mix it a couple more times by hand to be sure its combined.  After it’s baked and cooled slightly, you are ready to add the milk mixture.  GO SLOWLY… pour 1/4 of mixture over punctured cake, then wait until its all absorbed.  Then another 1/4 of mixture and so on.  It allows the cake to take in the liquid rather than it sinking to the bottom of the pan and becoming a soggy mess.

Just wanted to say that mom and I (OK, just me!) having technical difficulty adding the .pdf recipe file into the blog.  So, I officially give up.  Please print screen from here or cut and paste the recipe into word processor.  Sorry.

What’s Good:  I love how easy this cake is to make.  I almost always have the ingredients in my pantry.  And I am all about make ahead dishes.

What’s Not:  It’s definitely a plan ahead dessert.  This would not work for an unexpected guest.

Tres Leches Cake with Berries

Recipe By : Farmhouse Rules
Serving Size : 12

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs — room temperature
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
12 ounces evaporated milk
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 vanilla bean — scrape seeds
whipped cream — for topping
8 cups strawberries, sliced

1. Pre heat oven to 350 and butter 9×13″ pan.
2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into small bowl and set aside.
3. Place eggs, 1c sugar and vanilla extract into bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle. Beat on medium-high for 10 min (really!) until light yellow and fluffy.
4. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture, then milk, then last of flour mixture.
5. Pour into prepared pan, smooth top and bake for 25 mins, until cake springs back when touched and cake tester comes out clean.
6. Set aside to cool in pan for 30 mins.
7. In a 4c measuring cup, whisk together the heavy cream, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, almond extract and vanilla bean seeds. Using a skewer, poke holes all over the cooled cake and slowly pour cream mixture over the cake allowing to be absorbed completely before continuing to pour more. Cover cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hrs.
8. To serve, toss strawberries with 5T sugar, cut square of cake, add strawberries and whipped cream.

Per Serving: 432 Calories; 16g Fat (33.4% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 108mg Cholesterol; 320mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on May 31st, 2019.

One of my granddaughters is currently studying abroad in Argentina. This would be Sara’s daughter, Sabrina. It took her a full two months to learn the dialect they speak in Argentina. She spoke perfectly wonderful and fluent California/Baja California Spanish, but could hardly understand, or be understood in Argentina. It was very frustrating to her. She and the other 37 Clemson University students studying there all had the same difficulty. She’s finally got the language down pat, and she’s really enjoyed her classes she’s been taking there (all in Argentinian Spanish, of course). She just took a trip to Iguazu Falls and has one more trip before she comes home, that one to Machu Picchu. Then she’ll fly home at the end of June.

So, in a long conversation with her parents, they asked her what she wants to do first when she gets back home. She has it all mapped out. Sara, John, John Jr. (Sabrina’s brother) and I will drive to LAX to pick her up. First, take her to a Mexican restaurant because she’s been dying, just dying, for Mexican food. First order: a burrito. I don’t know what kind. She arrives early in the morning at LAX, so we’ll have to scope out a place that’s open. Might have to be fast food. . ..  Then, she said, you have to drive me to the beach (LAX IS right on the Pacific Ocean) so she can walk in the sand and stick her feet in the salt water. Then we’ll drive to Pasadena where Uncle Powell (Sara’s brother) and Aunt Karen live. They want to see her, of course, get a de-briefing of her 5 1/2 month sojourn, then, ta-da: she wants to have Grandma’s Grilled Salmon with Watercress Salad. This is the photo from my post – I posted the recipe in 2007 or 2008, but I updated the photo in 2009. This has been one of my go-to favorites for decades.

This request just warms my heart. I haven’t made this salmon/watercress salad for quite awhile. I was sharing Sabrina’s requests with my bible study group and we’re having a potluck dinner in a week or so, so I’m going to make this for them, especially after they heard about it.

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