DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jan 23 2017

Sock Monkey Mind

by Dea Anne M

Many of us resolve to “do better” at the beginning of each year and for some that means losing weight, getting more exercise, or quitting an undesirable habit. What can happen though is that we dive into our new life style in a full-tilt manner only to find out (again) that most of us live lives which are subject to disruption and change. Too often, we experience a setback, see this as proof of our failure and then give up. It’s happened to me often enough that I resolved several years back not to make resolutions.

Well, this year has been a little different. It isn’t that I’ve made a bunch of, or any, actual resolutions, but I have decided that I want to slow down and be a little kinder to myself. One way that I’m doing that is by starting a meditation practice. Already I’ve been impressed with what a difference it’s made in how I feel – and more importantly – how I react not only to everyday stresses but the little surprises that life has a way of throwing at us. It is a practice that I can recommend without reservation. I’d hesitate to say that it has changed my life except it kind of has.

Do you think you might be interested in exploring meditation for yourself? If so, DCPL has resources to help.

If you’re the kind of person who wants to do a little self-study before you dive in or you’re curious but don’t know if meditation is right for you here are some books for beginners:meditation

Mindfulness: an eight-week plan for finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams and Danny Penman

Meditation for Dummies by Stephen Bodian

Quiet Mind: a beginner’s guide to meditation compiled and edited by Susan Piver

whereverAnd here some sources that are widely considered classics in the field:

Wherever You Go, There You Are: mindfulness meditation in everyday life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Real Happiness: the power of meditation by Sharon Salzberg

If you have specific needs or concerns around meditation, be sure to check out the following:

In this country, African Americans overwhelmingly face issues and concerns that other people will rarely, or ever, be confronted with. Free Your Mind: an African American guide to meditation and freedom by Cortez R. Rainey addresses this reality with specific meditations and visualizations that freeencompass this reality.

Parents face specific challenges especially around helping children find mental health, happiness and security. If this is your situation, don’t miss Christopher Willard’s Growing Up Mindful: essential practices to help children, teens, and families find balance, calm and resilience.

Although all of the world’s major religions feature spiritual contemplation as a component, devout people can sometimes feel that the practice of meditation might run counter to what they believe. Christian Meditation: experiencing the presence of God by James Finley and Connecting to God: ancient kabbalah and modern psychology by Abner Weiss are two examples of resources available from DCPL that can help you explore these concerns.

happierFinally, let me wholeheartedly recommend Dan Harris’s wonderful 10% Happier: how I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works.  Harris, a co-anchor on Nightline and a longtime professional in the pressure cooker that is network news, has a very active brain – a quality that many of us share. He was able to rise to the top of his profession yet at the same time developed ways to mask his anxiety to the extent that he finally experienced an intense, and very public, panic attack while he was on the air. If you’re curious about meditation, but remain skeptical, then this is the book for you. Harris is a very funny writer and utterly convincing as he chronicles his journey toward greater happiness and focus all by way of learning to quiet the voice inside of his head that he was convinced would never shut up.

Now about the title of this post – Buddhist tradition has a term for the mind that is restless, confused and inconstant from which comes many of our mental and spiritual anxieties and that term is “monkey mind.” Well, meditation is starting to turn my own monkey (i.e. busy brain) into something more closely resembling a sock monkey. It isn’t something I’m not cuddling up with it every second of the day, but it sure doesn’t keep me from falling asleep at night. Try it for yourself…and do let me know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dec 22 2016

A Taste of Tradition

by Dea Anne M

There were a few years, quite some time ago, when I rented a three bedroom house and shared it with a couple of housemates. One of these was a guy I had known in college who, unbeknownst to me, carried some culinary baggage that was interesting to say the least. A beloved tradition for him was to create, during the winter holiday, a concoction that he was pleased to call krupnik.

At the time, I believed that he called it that because he just liked saying the word because he did so, constantly, during the several days that he spent making this particular witch’s brew. I have since learned that krupnik is a beverage of Lithuanian origin which usually includes honey and a variety of whole spices and pretty much always includes a very hefty portion of the purest grain alcohol.

If one consults Wikipedia, one will learn that the drink is “sometimes heated before being served,” and I think that this has to be true because the application of heat would probably work as well as anything else to kill the taste of the stuff. I mean it’s no surprise to also read in the same source that Polish soldiers used krupnick during World War II as a disinfectant. A versatile potable was my housemate’s krupnick – disinfectant, insect repellent, paint stripper – it would have worked for any number of household uses except, of course, the one for which it was intended.

The stuff lived in a huge vat during the period that it took to drink it up thus taking up a large amount of real estate in our shared refrigerator. When I complained about this one evening while trying to put together my dinner, I was told that chilling was vital so that the krupnik wouldn’t “spoil.” I ventured the opinion that there was no possible way to know if the stuff was spoiled or not since it was guaranteed to kill all functioning taste receptors. I was then told that it was “pretty sad” that I didn’t have any holiday traditions of my own. I’m sure that my reply was something steeped in mature wisdom like “I do so!” but later I thought, “Well do I?”

When it came to culinary traditions relating to Christmas (which was the holiday my family celebrated) what could I claim? I’m afraid what did, and still does, come to mind is the special gravy that my grandmother would make year after year. It was a chicken gravy -amply supplied with giblets – which would have been okay (sort of) except for the fact that my grandmother also included sliced hard-boiled eggs. I liked eggs just fine but somehow the sight of those particular eggs – staring up at me from the gravy bowl like horrible yellow eyes – was simply too much –  and so year after year, I ate my dry turkey and looked forward to dessert.

Whatever holidays you celebrate around this time of year, your table might very well hold some sort of culinary tradition. It might be a tradition peculiar to your own family or it might be a tradition rooted in your heritage.  Please note that I’m looking specifically at Christmas here only because that’s the tradition that I was raised with, and I in no way want to deny or make light of the food traditions of other cultures. I will say that there are some culinary customs peculiar to this time of year that have always baffled me. These include Christmas tree centerpieces made of shrimp, cheese balls, turducken,  and – I’m sorry ya’ll – fruitcake.

So what are some of the food traditions of other countries? In France, a Yule Log cake is always baked and served during the winter holiday. It is a sponge cake filledparis with cream or jam, rolled into a log shape and iced and otherwise decorated to resemble a log. The old Yule Log was a European custom of burning a log toward the end of the year that was meant to light the first fire started in the new one. If you want to try constructing your own version of this tasty confection, you’ll find a good one in My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. Lebovitz’s cake is beautiful and includes a chocolate icing marked to resemble wood bark as well as the requisite meringue mushrooms.

Gluhwein, is a mulled wine flavored with various spices, that is beloved in part of Germany and Austria. The fact of those whole spices steeped in alcohol and served warm bring it a little too close to my erstwhile joyhousemate’s krupnick for my comfort. I’m sure though, that most who partake are raising one to two cups at most and are, no doubt, enjoying the beverage with food at the same time. Alas, you’ll find no recipe for Gluhwein in Frank Rosin’s Modern German Cookbook. I was able to locate a recipe for something called Glogg in  Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer. Rombauer was herself of German heritage and the many editions of her seminal cookbook certainly show that influence. Her glogg recipe calls for two bottles of port, one bottle of brandy and 2 cups of vodka. I dare not think of how many people this is meant to serve. In the finest tradition of holiday cheer, this drink features whole spices and is served warm with “small spoons” for adding raisins should you fancy such an embellishment.

Generally a group effort, and a true labor of love, are tamales – a holiday food particular to Mexico. Having mexicoparticipated in a tamale-making party myself, I can tell you that putting them together and cooking them is really fun, if the work is shared with friends and family, and the results are absolutely delicious. Tamales, if you aren’t familiar with them, are steamed bundles of masa filled with savory or sweet mixtures. You’ll find recipes for all sorts of tamales – bean, chicken, pork, cheese and yes, sweet – in The Essential Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy. If you have a notion to round up some friends for a participatory party I guarantee that you’ll all have a great time.

Lutefisk is a unique dish that has come in for a fair share of abuse from such cultural institutions as The Prairie norwgianHome Companion. Of Norwegian origin, this traditional favorite involves soaking dried fish in cold water for six days (changed daily), then soaking two days in a mixture of cold water and lye until the fish reaches a jelly-like consistency (notice my emphasis). My Wikipedia source goes on to say that in order “to make the fish edible a final treatment of yet another four to six days of soaking in cold water is needed.” Now I don’t know about you, but I am made wary by any instruction that includes the phrase “to make the fish edible…” Should you be of a mind to try making this delicacy yourself, you’ll find a recipe for it in Sylvia Munsen’s Cooking the Norwegian Way along with recipes for dishes less likely to have you saying “it must be an acquired taste” such as gingerbread cookies, potato soup and whipped cream cake.

Finally, I can’t leave this musing on holiday food traditions without commenting on an interesting Christmas phenomenon in Japan. Due to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s successful ad campaign launched in 1974, thousands of chickenJapanese people wait up to two hours on December 25th to purchase their bucket of holiday cheer. Some choose to order their dinners months in advance. The Colonel even offers customers chocolate cake and sparkling wine! It is truly “Kentucky for Christmas” and really, why not? Want to read read more about this iconic food? Check out Fried Chicken: an American story by John T. Edge. Edge is an engaging writer and this fun little book is part of a series he has done on quintessential American dishes that includes Apple Pie: an American story and Hamburgers and Fries: an American story.

What are some of the holiday food traditions that you have loved? What are some that you haven’t loved quite so much?

 

 

 

 

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Dec 19 2016

Behind Our Favorite Christmas Carols

by Camille B

christmas-caroling1Ah Christmas carols, how we love them. The gaiety of the festive season certainly wouldn’t be the same without them. Wouldn’t be the same without the halls a decking, chestnuts a roasting and good old Jack frost nipping at our nose.

To me a Christmas without carols would be like Thanksgiving without turkey or dressing–incomplete. It would be hard to imagine not hearing the sweet strains of Silent Night or White Christmas in the background while you do your holiday shopping; or the warmth of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas as you bake cookies or get ready for the Christmas Eve church service.

Below are 10 of our favorite Christmas carols and holiday songs that have become near and dear to our hearts. They have brought us comfort and joy throughout the years. These are some of the stories of how they came to be.

Do You Hear What I Hear?
Believe it or not, this song was actually inspired by the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Written by Noel Regney with the music arranged by his wife Gloria Shayne Baker, it was written by the couple as a plea for peace during that turbulent time in history when everyone was  anxiously waiting a resolution to the standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Says Regney in an interview “In the studio, the producer was listening to the radio to see if we had been obliterated, en route to my home, I saw two mothers with their babies in strollers. The little angels were looking at each other and smiling.” This inspired the first line of the song: “Said the night wind to the little lamb … ”  In an interview years later, Shayne said that neither of them could personally perform the entire song at the time they wrote it because of the emotions surrounding the Crisis. Since then the song has gone on to sell millions of copies and has been sung by hundreds of artists including Bing Crosby,  Frank Sinatra, Robert Goulet, Carrie Underwood, Mannheim Steamroller, Brenda Lee and many others.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
This  song was penned by songwriters Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine in 1944, for Judy Garland’s movie Meet me in St. Louis. It was felt that the first draft was too sad, and rightly so when you read some of the original lyrics:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Pop that champagne cork
Next year we may all be living in New York

Garland refused to sing it,  saying that it would be cruel to sing those lines to a brokenhearted sister. After she protested Martin did a re-write which she went on to sing in the movie, and the holiday song has become one of our favorites over the years, sung by artists like Frank Sinatra,  Bing Crosby, Sarah MacLachlan, Kelly Clarkston, Lady Antebellum and Michael Buble to name a few.

White Christmas
Of all the carols, this is probably the most wistful and melancholic of all. Written by Irving Berlin and first airing on the radio in 1941, this cozy little song went on to have an even deeper meaning because of the tragedy of the Pearl Harbor attack that happened just 18 days before the song aired. The following winter, the Armed forces played it repeatedly over the radio for the young American soldiers who had found themselves overseas during the war to remind them of home. It was said that whenever Bing Crosby traveled overseas to perform for the troops it was by far the most requested song, even though he had reservations about playing it because of its sad undertones. By the end of the war, White Christmas was the best-selling song of all time and held that spot for 56 years until Elton John’s remake of “Candle in the Wind” when Princess Diana died in 1997.

O Holy Night
This song was first written in 1847 as a poem by a local poet in France named Placide Cappeau. He later had music added to it by his friend Adolphe Charles Adams and weeks later the song was sung in the village on Christmas Eve. At first the song was well-loved and received by the church of France, but when it became common knowledge that Cappeau was a socialist and Adams a Jew, it was pronounced unsuitable for church services. The common French people loved it so much they continued singing it anyway. It eventually came to the U.S. through John Sullival Dwight, an abolitionist during the Civil War, and was published in his magazine, finding tremendous favor in the north during the war. On Christmas Eve of 1871, during the war between French and German soldiers, fighting ceased for 24 hours in honor of Christmas Day after a French soldier walked out onto the battlefield and sang three verses of the song, prompting a soldier from the German army to sing another popular hymn by Martin Luther. Soon after this event, the French Church re-embraced O Holy Night.

Over the years, the song has been recorded and sung by various artists including Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole,  Mariah Carey, Celine Deon,  Faith Hill, Josh Groban and Trans-Siberian Orchestra and many others.

Silver Bells
This famous song was originally called “Tinkle Bells”  and first appeared in The Lemon Drop Kid, the 1951 film starring Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell. It was written by composers Jay Livingston and Ray Evans (Livingston the music and Evans the lyrics) when they were asked by Paramount Pictures to come up with a Christmas song for the film. The inspiration came from the tinkling bells of the department store Santa and Salvation Army workers. Completely satisfied with the song, and clueless to the fact that the word tinkle also had another meaning, Jay happily went home and played it for his wife who asked him if he was out of his mind and went on to explain him the bathroom connotation for the word tinkle. Luckily (for all of us) he listened to his wife and went back to the drawing board. Since the duo loved everything else about the song, they simply replaced the word “Tinkle” with “Silver.” Over the years, Silver Bells has been sung over the airwaves by artists such as Dean Martin, Perry Como, Jim Reeves, Johnny Mathis, Martina McBride and Peggy Lee to name a few.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas
This song, composed by Walter Kent and Kim Gannon and recorded by Bing Crosby, was first released in the Christmas of 1943, and written from the perspective of a soldier serving overseas during World War II. When Gannon first pitched the song to the people in the music industry, they turned it down because they felt that the final line “If only in my dreams” was too sad for those separated from their loved ones in the military, but when he sang it for Crosby, Crosby decided to record it. One of the most touching stories associated with the song was that of the Battleship North Carolina. The chaplain of that ship, realizing how homesick the men were, collected $5 from each crew member who had children back home. He then sent the money, together with the addresses of the men to Macy’s Department store, asking them to buy gifts for their children using the money and have the gifts mailed to their homes in time for Christmas. When Macy’s received the money they were so touched by the gesture that they decided to take it a little further by reaching out to the families and asking them to come in to make a special recording for their loved one who would not be home with them that Christmas. It was said that the men aboard the Battleship North Carolina wept and rejoiced that Christmas day in 1943 when they saw their wives, children and loved ones appear on the screen, since Macy’s had videotaped each of their families sending them a Christmas message. While I’ll Be Home for Christmas was not written on account of this story, it very well could have been and it certainly is clear to see the sentiment that connects them. The poignant Christmas song, has also been also recorded over the years by Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Sara Evans and Kelly Clarkston, to name a few.

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire
Also known as The Christmas Song, this classic was written by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé in 1945. Strangely enough, it was written during an extremely hot summer. The idea, according to Tormé was to”stay cool by thinking cool.” What first started as four playful lines penned by Wells , Chestnuts roasting, Jack Frost nipping, Yuletide carols and Folks dressed up like Eskimos, scribbled on a piece of paper and not at all meant to be lyrics to a song, ended up forty-five minutes later- with the addition of Tormé’s music- being the famous Christmas carol that we now know and love, sung by many well known artists like Trace Adkins, Johnny Mathis, Martina McBride, Bing Crosby and Justin Bieber.

Winter Wonderland
Even though this is one of the more jolly Christmas favorites, the story behind the song is anything but. The lyrics were actually written by Richard Smith while he was being treated for tuberculosis at the West Mountain Sanitarium in Scranton, Pennsylvania. As he spent long, lonely days in the comfort of his room, he daydreamed about what it would be like to be normal and healthy, living a life that would enable him to play outside in the snow like the children he was observing from his bedroom window. This inspired him to write a poem that captured the carefree, fun-filled, snowy day. He showed the lyrics to his friend and musician Felix Bernard in 1934 who, touched by the lovely poem, immediately set to work to compose a melody to go along with the words. Sadly Smith never got much of a chance to see all that the song would eventually become, passing away a year after its release in 1934; but Felix went on to enjoy the fame that resulted in the years following. The classic has been sung by over 200 artists. You can hear renditions of  it every year by artists such as Tony Bennett, Elvis Presley,  Barry Manilow, The Andrews Sisters, Michael Buble,  Harry Conick Jr. and Ella Fitzgerald.

We Wish You A Merry Christmas
The composer and author of this cheeky Carol with the demand for figgy pudding is to this day still unknown. It is an English folk song from the 1500s and goes back to a time when poor carolers would wander from house to house singing Christmas songs to the wealthy people of the community. The line “We wish you a Merry Christmas.” was sung as a greeting to the household,  while the lines “O, bring us some figgy pudding; we won’t go until we get some” was the call for treats they usually received as payment, and yes they would keep right on singing until they got them. It is said that the figgy pudding mentioned was once an integral part of the Christmas celebrations but has now seemingly lost its importance. The carol is a popular finale to many holiday events and is one of few to mention the New Year celebration.

Jingle Bells
This is one of the best-known and most commonly sung American songs in the world. It was written by James Lord Pierpont and published under the title One Horse Open Sleigh in the autumn of 1857.  Pierpont, at the time, was hired as an organist at his brother’s church in Savannah, Georgia. It was there that he composed the song originally written for a Thanksgiving program. It wasn’t very popular when he released it in 1857. He tried again in 1859 under the new title Jingle Bells  which flopped again. It slowly gained popularity over the years, becoming associated with Christmas rather than just a regular sleigh song which was very popular at the time among teenagers. In 1890, three years before Pierpont’s death the song had become a huge Christmas hit, and from 1890-1954 held a spot on the top 25 most recorded songs in the world. Over the decades it has been sung by many, including The Beatles, Gene Autry, The Carpenters, Louis Armstrong, Nsync, Nat King Cole and Barbara Streisand.

Which Christmas Carol is your favorite this time of year? And which artist sings it best?

Here is a link to some fun Christmas music quizzesmistletoe

christmas-book

 

 

 A treasury of Christmas songs and carols – Henry W Simon

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Dec 12 2016

Cooking Up Some Comfort

by Dea Anne M

Regardless of your views and feelings about current events, tumultuous weather and the presidential election, I think that it’s safe to say that most of us could use a little comfort and joy at this point in the year. Now I don’t know about you, but the point of the season, for me at least, isn’t the gifts. Of course, I’m always grateful to receive – and it really is the thought that counts – but I really don’t need another object for which I have to find a place. No, at the risk of sounding a little trite, the winter holiday season for me is all about giving rather than getting. And there isn’t any sort of giving that gratifies me as much as providing the people I love (and sometimes even people I don’t know that well!) with luscious things to eat and drink. You might agree – no matter what holiday(s) you celebrate – and DCPL has resources to help you get in that spirit.

First, let’s give a thought to comfort food. Now that can be a loaded term. I happen to think that almost nothing beatsone-dish a traditional tuna noodle casserole for sheer comfort eating, but my partner considers it a dish that is completely beyond the pale. Call it a throwback to my childhood, but casseroles in general tend to soothe any tantrum prone urges that I might be feeling, and I know that I can’t be the only one. There’s just something about having a whole meal tucked into my bowl that makes me feel as though I’ve just had a warm bath and jumped into a pair of flannel pajamas. Feeling in need? Check out 101 One Dish Dinners – hearty recipes for the dutch oven, skillet and casserole pan by Andrea Chesman for easy (and delicious!) meals in a dish. From Jambalaya to Irish Stew to Risotto Primavera, you’ll find here a truly international array of dishes guaranteed to keep you from stamping your foot and refusing to play nicely with the other children.

chickenOf course, many people would agree that, for sheer comfort, nothing beats the aroma of a roasting chicken as well as the eating of it when it’s done. Explore the mystique of this, and other, tantalizing dishes in  Simon Hopkinson’s charming books Roast Chicken and Other Stories and Second Helpings of Roast Chicken. And if you’re aiming for the broadest range of choices when it comes to chicken dishes, don’t miss Linda Amster’s New York Times Chicken Cookbook. Chicken-wise, whatever you’re looking for is bound to be here. Along with such toothsome-sounding exotica as Armenian Style Chicken and Bulgar and Chicken Tagine with Olives and Lemons, I counted twenty-eight recipes for roast chicken alone.

For many, comfort eating can be summed up in one word…chocolate. If you count yourself among that number, epiphanyconsider first the many virtues of Chocolate Epiphany: exceptional cookies, cakes and confections for everyone by Francois Payard. The author is a renowned pastry chef and owner of (among other concerns) Francois Payard Bakery – one of New York City’s best known and beloved store fronts. From custards to tarts, you’ll find wonderful treats here and none seem outrageously “cheffy,” although I figure that the Milk Chocolate and Candied Kumquat Napoleons will probably take you the better part of an afternoon to construct. For something a little more “down home,” you’ll never go wrong with the classics and that’s exactly what you’ll find in Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts by Maida Heatter. You might feel dubious about such recipe titles as Positively-the Absolute-Best-Chocolate Chip Cookies but keep in mind that the proof is in the baking, so to speak, and there seem to be a lot of happy bakers out there who say that these cookies moniker is no exaggeration.

cocktailFor some folks, the holidays just wouldn’t be the holidays without the opportunity to lift a glass of cheer with friends. If this is you, and you need some fresh ideas for what exactly to put in those glasses, check out The New Cocktail Hour: the essential guide to hand-crafted drinks by Andre Darlington and Tenaya Darlington. Here you’ll find recipes for classics like the Sidecar and the Martini, and yes, good old Eggnog, but there are plenty of bewitching sounding gems here like the Silver Fizz and the Boulevardier. The author-siblings devote space to wine as well as appropriate food pairings, and if you aren’t much of a drinker (or not one at all) never fear! You’ll also discover in these pages plenty of low and no-proof cocktails like the Lime Cordial Soda and the Black Julep.

On a final note, you might be a part of that rare and select group that swears by two words in regard to comfort buttercooking. Those two words are “butter” and “bacon.” If you think that this could describe you, although, really,you know if it does, then don’t miss The Great Big Butter Cookbook edited by Diana von Glahn which has over 450 pages of recipes and Theresa Gilliam’s Bacon 24/seven: recipes for curing, smoking and eating.

What food or drink spells “comfort” for you during the holidays?

 

 

 

 

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Dec 7 2016

Meet Anita Hughes!

by Jencey G

I have had the opportunity to get to know Anita Hughes through her bookshughes-1135 and my personal blog Writer’s Corner.  She is debuting with us at DeKalb County Public Library with her book Christmas in Paris.  Anita is stopping by so that our readers here could have an opportunity to get to know this great author.

So Anita what are five interesting facts that readers should know about you?

I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia.

I live on the beach in Dana Point, California, and love to walk along the ocean.

I have five children! And still find time to write.

I am a huge frozen yogurt fan and have it every night for dessert.

I love 19th century British literature: Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, George Eliot, Wilkie Collins.”

 

christmas-in-paris_final-cover-1Since this book is set at Christmas time what is your favorite aspect of Christmas?

My favorite thing about Christmas is that the whole family is together. The children are now old enough to buy each other presents, so it is a very festive time and everyone really enjoys it. We usually spend three full days together and walk on the beach and cook and have ping pong tournaments.”

One aspect of your writing I love is how you have your heroine set in a high position in both her career and family background. This aspect reminds me of authors such as Judith Krantz and Barbara Taylor Bradford.  How have these ladies influenced your writing?

Yes! I have read everything by Judith Krantz and many books by Barbara Taylor Bradford. I am the biggest fan of Krantz’s books and Princess Daisy and Mistral’s Daughter really influenced my writing. I have always been a huge reader and devoured all the big, glossy, blockbusters.

Do you plan to continue to use exotic locations for your settings of your future stories?

Yes, my next book, White Sand, Blue Sea, is set in St. Bart’s and comes out in April. Emerald Coast, set in Sardinia, comes out next August and there will be a Christmas book set in a gorgeous location next year too.”

Has your childhood played a part in where your stories are set?

My parents were European and as a child we traveled a lot. I also grew up with a large world view, living in Australia and being exposed to different cultures. I use a lot of the places I fell in love with as a child – Lake Como, Cannes, Rome, Paris, in my books.

How much experience do you have using libraries in the various places you live?

I adore libraries. When my children were small, we were in the library almost every afternoon. I would park them in the children’s section and read everything in the fiction section. I love our local library in Dana Point, which is a block from my house.”

What is your favorite activity to do in the library?

I like to read the first couple of pages of a dozen different fiction books. There are so many authors I am interested in, but don’t get the time to read.

Why is self-discovery so important in your novels?

As a wife and mother, I know women don’t get a lot of time for introspection. But it is important to take care of oneself at every stage in life. So I think self-discovery is very important for growth and self esteem.

Do all your novels start with the character in their lowest position to rise by the end of the novel?

I hadn’t really thought about it that way. I think they all start with the character having a dilemma. And usually in solving the dilemma, she discovers her best self along the way.

Thank you, Anita Hughes, for joining us today.  I am a fan of Anita’s work and cannot wait to see more of her books at DeKalb County Public Library.  Please check out Christmas in Paris.   If you like Anita then you might also be interested in: Elin Hilderbrand, Fannie Flagg, and JoJo Moyes.

Thank you so much for the support, Jencey! And I hope your readers enjoy my books.

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Nov 18 2016

UnPlug for the Holidays

by Camille B

happy-holidays-2The holidays are quickly approaching, and so too is the time spent connecting with family and friends; some we probably haven’t seen all year. It is also the time of year when we come together to share meals, fun, laughter and just being thankful to have each other.

But how attainable is the goal of quality family time in this busy, always connected world that we live in where unplugging and powering-down is almost impossible for just about everyone you know?

Now before you sigh and begin turning your attention elsewhere, believing this to be just another blog about the ills of modern technology, I assure you that it is not. This is more about the issue of time- how little of it we have- and how important it is to savor the very best moments of it, spent with the people in our lives who matter the most.

Unplugging ourselves from the things in our lives that keep us so focused and preoccupied would definitely take some effort for many. It might be a huge effort depending on how attached you are to technology in the first place.

Are you merely a casual user, routinely checking and keeping up with calls and messages as you go about your daily life? Or do you freak out when you think you’ve missed a text, always set like a cobra to jump at every alerting bleep or ring? This obsession leads to distraction which leads to the disconnect with the people around us, since our focus is only for what’s on the screen at that moment and nothing else.

Remember the ad on TV where the kids are so preoccupied with their iPhones that they have no idea what’s going on around them? Not even when there parents are replaced? It’s worth watching.

I have to say it was a little bit funny, somewhat troubling, and so very true of how caught up we are with our gadgets and devices. I honestly believe that there is no better time than the holidays for us to make that effort to unplug and power-down so we can really have quality time with family and friends.

I know, I know, just thinking about turning off your phone for more than half an hour makes your throat go dry and gives you the restless feeling of a chain smoker out of cigarettes, but wouldn’t it be worth it? Wouldn’t it be worth it to really listen to what Grandma has to say this year? Instead of taking a selfie with the cat while she’s talking and then calling her a few months later to ask for the banana bread recipe again. No more missing the moment because you were capturing the moment.

There are some of us who, because of work or other circumstances beyond our control have to keep our phones close to us and powered up at all times, but even then we can still turn off all the extras. There are apps that would allow you to block out social media sites like Facebook and Twitter for a period of time, so you won’t even be tempted to go on there to look. The urge to check will be strong, and you’d probably lose the battle every time.

And for those of us who can’t ignore those beeps and chirps that alert us to messages received, maybe we can put our phones on silent for an hour or two, so the lure of those sounds won’t cause us to cave.

Even try it with the kids who never, ever seem to power off of anything. They’re forever texting on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or doing something else that requires their full attention to a screen.

Believe me they’re not going to be too happy about it, especially if their precious device is the one thing that keeps them from having to make awkward conversation with family members they don’t know that well.

But hopefully, when they realize it’s not forever and the reason behind you doing it is not simply because you’re pure evil, but for them to form healthy family bonds and learn how to better interact with others face to face, they’ll come around.

So I challenge you, and I challenge myself as well, to let the holidays this year not simply be about great food and a few extra days off work, but also about taking a much needed break from all of our daily devices and distractions so that we can truly relax, breathe and be with those we care about. Believe me we need it, and so do our families.

Here is a perfect resource in our catalog with ideas for “unplugged” play and activities for your family:

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Unplugged Play: No batteries, no plugs, pure fun by Bobbi Connor.

 

 

 

Below are some interesting links on the topic that were very helpful:

http://techland.time.com/2013/12/20/shut-it-down-a-digital-detox-plan-for-the-holidays/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-digital-family/201012/12-ways-unplug-the-holidays?destination=node/52163

 

 

 

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Oct 24 2016

Sister Dear by Laura McNeill

by Jencey G

How many of you remember Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn?  You probably either read the book or saw the movie.  Sister Dear has a similar feel to it.  This story is about two sisters, Allie and Emma.  sister-dearAllie is in prison for a crime she did not commit.  At the beginning of the story we meet Allie as she is departing from prison.  She has one goal and that is to prove her innocence.  The only consistent visitor she had during her time in prison was her sister Emma.  Allie’s young daughter Caroline only came and visited once or twice.  Emma told her sister that visiting made Caroline upset. Or did it really?  Is there a future for Allie in Brunswick Georgia?

The story is told from alternating points of view.  We hear from Allie, Emma, the sheriff, Caroline, and another character, Natalie the vet.  Emma and the sheriff are hiding a secret about what really happened.

The author slowly introduces the antagonist of the story which may catch readers by surprise.  Readers will want to skip to the end to find out if Allie is able to prove her innocence? Who really committed the murder?

The theme of the story is forgiveness and being able to move on from the past.  Can we let that go or be forever prisoned by these events?

This story really resonated with me.  I have a younger sister, so I was totally able to identify with the relationship between these sisters.  This book is one of the best that I have read this year! What is even more exciting is the author, Laura McNeill, will be at the Clarkston Library to discuss the book on Saturday, November 19th at 2:00 pm.I hope that you can join us for the discussion. Click here for information.

Please visit the catalog for a copy or drop by the Clarkston branch.

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Oct 21 2016

Three Across, Four Down

by Camille B

crossword-picture-1I’ve slowly become a crossword enthusiast over the years. I don’t know if I’ll ever get good enough to attempt the ones in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, but there is just something about filling in those little blank squares of a crossword puzzle that brings me a certain sense of peace and satisfaction.

I have many friends and family members who simply cannot relate to this. They cannot fathom why I would want to sit and stare at little black and white squares for hours picking away at strange clues–digits that really mean toes, picnic guests that are ants, and words that are simply not what they seem.

But word lovers everywhere know what I mean. They know the feeling that comes with solving the clues, the exhilaration of filling in that final blank space that completes the puzzle; and if you did it without help from your crossword dictionary or a clue from Google, this is certainly cause for celebration.

Rabbi Geoffrey Mitelman of the Huffington Post says, “Every day, I do the New York Times crossword puzzle. It truly is a ritual for me, almost as sacred as Shabbat: Every night before going to bed, I load up the crossword on my phone or my computer, and try to plow through that mental challenge. I’ve discovered that there’s a deep satisfaction that goes far beyond filling in that last box to complete the puzzle.”

Research shows that people’s love for puzzles, in general, stems from many different reasons:

  • Rising to a challenge
  • Exploring language
  • Proving something about yourself to yourself
  • Demonstrating abilities to other solvers
  • Expanding vocabulary
  • Testing abilities
  • Broadening general knowledge
  • Playing with other solvers
  • Competing in crossword tournaments
  • Escaping boredom or depression
  • Passing the time
  • Learning something new
  • Using wordplay to stay mentally alert
  • Thinking outside the box by thinking inside the box
  • Improving memory
  • Having fun

And forget the myth that you have to be a wizard to decipher a crossword. “Gee, you must be really smart” people say to you in fascination, with the grave misconception that you have to be some kind of genius to figure out the clues. And God forbid you’re filling the answers in with pen– you’re mentally elevated to Jeopardy status!

Rubbish all of it. I’m no pro as I said, but I believe that there is a method to the seeming madness. Maybe everyone creates their own method as they go along, but a lot of it you get after doing it for a while. There are words that pop up almost every time that are called repeaters, and I go for these first because after getting them filled in it gives me more to work with in solving the remaining clues. And yes, some might make you scratch your head for a bit, but this makes getting the right answer all the more rewarding.

How helpful are these puzzles and word games to brain fitness? I had always believed the answer to this  to be “very” and was surprised to discover that it varied depending on who you asked. While some believed that a link could definitely be found between the two, there are others who now challenge the belief that crossword puzzles help with brain fitness and keeping Alzheimer and dementia at bay. Here are two articles that support each theory:

Brain Myth: Doing crossword puzzles can keep your brain young.

Do Crossword Puzzles Boost Your Brain Health?

So maybe you’re not a fan of crossword puzzles per say.  Maybe sudoku is more your thing or cryptograms (another of my favorite). If you just have a love for words and word solving, here are some great word games that are guaranteed to keep you occupied for hours:

Bookworm       Words with Friends        Missclass        Boggle          4 Pics- 1Word          Letter Press

Here are just a few of many great books to be found on puzzles at your local DCPL:

How to conquer the New York Times crossword puzzle– Amy Renaldo

Four-letter words: and other secrets of a crossword insider– Michelle Arnot

The crossword century– Alan Connor

Cracking codes & cryptograms for dummies– Denise Sutherland and Mark Koltko-Rivera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

missclass

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Oct 14 2016

Knitting up the Ravelled Sleeve

by Dea Anne M

 

(Time of day – about 8:00 p.m.)

“No. You can’t stay up another 10 minutes. Bedtime is bedtime. Get your pajamas on and get your teeth brushed.”

“Yes. You can have a glass of water and then I want to see that light go out.”

“No, there isn’t a werewolf living in your closet. Now, go to sleep…”

“…and be sure you close your eyes. It’s already 5 minutes past your bedtime and tomorrow is a school day.”

This was a fairly standard scenario at my house when my brother and I were very young. Our family pod wasn’t particularly rigid or strict, as I recall, but both of my parents (especially my father) were very invested in making sure that we children got our required amount of sleep. They were young parents and maybe they were nervous about doing  everything right. Now, if we go forward in time several years, my younger sisters are about the same age as my brother and I in the scene above and the following would be part of a typical evening spent getting them to bed.

(One weary parent or another is shutting the door to the bedroom. The time? 8:30 p.m., 9:00, 10:00, 11:00? Who knows?)

“Yes, you can have the light on.” ”

“No, you don’t have to go to sleep right away.”

“Yes, you can play with the Legos but keep it quiet and don’t come out.”

Oldest children (and some of those in the middle) will sometimes complain that the youngest “Had it so easy.” I think that parents don’t shrug their shoulders and just give up – I think that they just decide that certain things (“Try not to break any bones if you can help it and leave the cat alone.”) are more important than some others (“You know we have broccoli at least once a week. Okay, just one little bite, okay?”) when it comes to raising children.

But this isn’t a post about child rearing or sibling order. This isn’t a post about the importance of family meal times either. This is a post about…sleep. When I was a kid, it wasn’t so much that I minded sleeping as it was all the exciting things that happened after 9:00 p.m. (or so I imagined). In later years, studying or just having fun often seemed more important than getting to bed at a reasonable hour. Night owl habits can be hard to break, but I think that I’m finally becoming someone who appreciates the early hours which, cliche or not, really are the best part of the day. I don’t seem to know that many people anymore who brag about how little sleep they’re getting and, in fact, more seem to complain about restless nights or noisy neighbors. Clearly, sleep is important for everyone, regardless of age, and getting enough of it can benefit everything from memory to weight loss.

But how do we get the sleep that we need in this stressed-out, always connected culture that we inhabit? If you aren’t naturally what my grandmother would have called a “good sleeper” or you’re just interested in the always intriguing subject of sleep,  then DCPL might have resources to help. Consider these:

The always lively, often controversial, Arianna Huffington’s latest book is Sleep Revolution: transforming your life , one night at a time. If that subtitle gives you pause, you may be interested to know that Huffington experienced a revolutionsleep revelation of sorts when she collapsed several years ago due to exhaustion. Since then, she has made it a mission to get good sleep – and to make sure that you get it too. In spite of that, this isn’t so much a how-to book as it is a look at the latest science on sleep. Huffington covers everything from the deceptions practiced by the sleeping pill industry to how artificial light (including that from our devices) effects our sleep. There’s also a discussion of how parents can have productive conversations with children about sleep and “model” the type of sleep behavior that they would like to see. Hmmm….so maybe I would have happily gone to bed at my assigned time if everyone else hadn’t seemed to be having so much fun?

Do you feel that you aren’t getting the quality sleep that you need at night and does that have an impact on your soundlywaking hours? If so, you might check out Robert S. Rosenberg’s Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day: a doctor’s guide to solving your sleep problems.  There’s lots of useful information here as well as a few tidbits that might surprise you. Did you know that a blue room is the most conducive to slumber? On the other hand, the “blue light” created by televisions, smart phones and computers can disrupt your melatonin production thus leading to a restless night. Which might mean that your bedside table should hold print books and an old school alarm clock instead of devices. I mean, once you finish painting the walls.

All living things seem to require a certain amount of sleep (or its equivalent) but sleep itself, and what really happenslife during it, remains in many ways a mystery. If you’ve always been curious about what sleep means in a cultural context be sure to check out The Secret Life of Sleep by Kat Duff. Duff explores the meaning of sleep, both in its physiological aspects as well as its social significance. Along the way, you’ll discover some interesting facts. Did you know, for example, that before the widespread use of electric lighting, people really did go to bed and arise with the sun but most people woke up for a lengthy period of time in between during which they would do some chores, pray or read. Fascinating stuff!

I’ve come a long way from the would be night owl, feet dragging to bed habits of before. These days I go to bed happily, dare I say eagerly, and, for the most part, I sleep well. How about you? Are you an early riser or do you come alive in the late hours? Most importantly, do you get enough sleep?

 

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Oct 10 2016

Out With The Old

by Camille B

picture-of-signboardWould you believe that you can still find a working payphone at the Decatur Library? I don’t mean a relic, barred off by velvet ropes where people can come by and stare in wonder (although they probably do). I’m talking about an actual, receiver- still- attached, working payphone.

You certainly don’t see these around anymore and many kids today have no idea what they are or how they work, just take a look here at the young man in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xm0CoT5n7A.

This youngster’s not alone, and it’s not just younger kids, teenagers too seem in awe of this blast from our past. I have a sixteen year old niece who has never seen an actual payphone, or a rotary phone for that matter, except for the ones on TV. Funny or sad, the most vivid recollection of the phone booth this modern generation might have in the  coming years, would be of Clark Kent using it to change into Superman.

Of course I couldn’t stop my mind from travelling down memory lane, wondering what else had faded away or died a quiet death while we weren’t looking? Those things which we believed to be so indispensable that are now simply memories that make our kids chortle and roll their eyes at us as though we lived during the Middle Ages.

Well honestly, quite a number of them that popped up are already pretty much obsolete and the others, though they’re putting up a brave fight to stay with us, will soon also be a thing of the past.

The following items came up repeatedly on various lists:

Rotary Phones- picture-of-rotary-phoneI think that the rotary phone would certainly be a great conversation piece among the younger and future generations. There were no buttons to press, not even for redial. Before thumbs rocked, the index finger ruled, for both scrolling down the pages of the telephone directory and dialing -the long way around. And if the phone rang, you picked it up, without knowing who was calling. If you missed a call, you dialed *69.

Mailing a letter- When was the last time you saw a teenager in line at the Post Office?  Just about everything is done online, even getting copies of grades and turning in assignments. All correspondence is done through text, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

Disposable Cameras- Gone are the days of dropping off your disposable camera at Walgreens and anxiously waiting  the one hour for your honeymoon photos to be developed, hoping that the weird, grinning man you met doesn’t appear in any of the backgrounds.picture-of-disposable-camera

Today we can easily snap and store hundreds of photos to our heart’s content, using our tablets and smart phones and getting results in an instant. We now even have the option of developing them ourselves. And thanks to Photoshop, you can also say bye-bye to the weird grinning man in the background.

Cursive Writing- Alas, the lost art of cursive writing which was such an integral part of the schools’ curriculum and encouraged proper penmanship among students, today is almost non-existent. The logic behind it seems to be that we rarely put pen to paper anymore anyway. Maybe in years to  come there will be no need for pen and paper at all, so the thought is, I guess, why waste time with such a practice?

Still, I believe that there’s just something about a person having good penmanship, don’t you think? And it’s one of those things I’d most hate to see go. Some states and schools are still fighting the good fight to keep it as part of their school’s curriculum, Georgia included, but sadly it’s dying a slow death.

Renting a Movie- Years ago, we probably couldn’t imagine life without popular video rental stores like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. For many it was part of the weekend experience. You stopped off at the video store down the street Friday or Saturday night to rent four or five movies which you kept for a few days.

Good times for us, but hey, no love lost for the modern generation, not when they have Redbox, Netflix, Hulu and other ways to rent movies or stream them online in your own home.picture-of-blockbuster-sign

Remembering Phone Numbers- Before everyone had a cellphone with the capability of storing every possible phone number you could think of, there was just that one house phone, remember? With probably an extra line or two for everyone in the house to use. You could recite grandma’s number by heart and aunt Helen’s, the Vet, and Wong’s Chinese takeout on the corner. Any others were probably penciled in your telephone and address book that you carried with you in your handbag.

Mixed Tapes- Look at how far we’ve come from the mixed tape. Remember all that time spent compiling our favorite songs on a single cassette with 60 or 90 minutes worth of playing time? Arranging the songs in just the right order, then listening first to one side and then flipping it over to listen to the other? And who could forget using a pencil to reel the tape back in when it somehow got unraveled.

Today there are ipods, MP3 players, tablets and cellphones that enable us to create, download and store endless playlists all at the touch of a button.

And there is my absolute favorite…

Handwritten Letters- I can’think of a person who doesn’t love to get a handwritten letter. I most certainly do. How often do I get them? Not very often, I’m afraid. It is now very rare to receive a warm, handwritten letter from a friend or loved one. In the busyness of today’s world, all our new technology has completely replaced putting pen to paper.

But the memories are still there of the handwritten love letters we kept over the years, now yellowed with age.

Letters have brought comfort to men at war, cheer to sick loved ones, and solace to broken hearts. Letters and love notes have evoked the theme for many a love story.
There were so many other things on the ‘out with the old’ list that stirred up feelings of nostalgia as I did research for this post.  You can find a few more here on this link 50 things we don’t do anymore due to technology.

And though we say out with the old, we still pause to reminisce about those things that contributed to our lives in some small way over the years, even as we embrace all that technology and the future has to offer us today.

“We all have our time machines.  Some take us back, they’re called memories.  Some take us forward, they’re called dreams.”

– Jeremy Irons

Visit your local Dekalb Public Library or visit the website to find copies of these titles:

The great acceleration: how the world is getting faster, faster/ Robert Colville

The way we will be 50 years from today/edited by Mike Wallace

Toilets, toasters & telephones/ Susan Goldman Rubin

From radio to wireless web/ Joanne Mattern

The history of the telephone/ Elizabeth Raum

How to write anything: a complete guide/ Laura Brown

 

 

 

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