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holidays

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 21 2015

Holiday Kindness

by Camille B

Candle4Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Last year, in the midst of doing my Christmas shopping, I stopped off at the McDonald’s for a quick bite to eat. When I finally pulled around to the drive-thru window to pay for the meal, I was informed by the cashier that the customer ahead of me had already paid for it. Stunned, I thanked her, collected my food and drove off. I had no idea how the person knew what I had ordered or how much it had cost, but I remember thinking to myself, well if that wasn’t just the nicest thing.

This was my very first experience with such a random act of kindness by a total stranger, but I soon discovered that, though random, the act was far from uncommon. Friends and coworkers regaled me with the many instances they had heard of, or witnessed themselves, of people going out of their way to be nice just because–especially at Christmastime. It seems that for some reason folks just seem to be brimming over with extra kindness and good cheer during the Holidays, giving back from what they’ve been blessed with, all in keeping with the spirit of the season.

Many charitable organizations also provide free Holiday assistance to thousands of children, seniors and unemployed or low-income families–providing free food, toys, meals and more. And it is our generous contributions around this time of year that make these services possible. Yet it’s oftentimes the smallest things we do, which cost us almost nothing, that make the greatest impact on someone else’s life.

So this year, even in the midst of your busy days of shopping and parties and travelling, keep a lookout for opportunities to show kindness everywhere you go. People become stressed and tired and irritable in the midst of their hectic Holiday schedules, and your kind word or deed at the right moment might be just what they need to set them on course again.

For some of us, it might take making a very conscious effort–but it can be done. You don’t have to adopt an entire family or give all your money away, but you can:

Pay for the coffee of the person in line behind you.

Put change in the vending machine for the next person, or in the parking meter for someone whose time is about to expire.

Or, just smile at a stranger or two while you go about your day.

And the act doesn’t always have to be random or anonymous, you can also:

Give compliments away lavishly about someone’s holiday outfit, scarf, or cookie recipe. (Everyone loves compliments.)

Babysit for parents who need to get out for errands.

Add an extra plate at the dinner table for someone who might be spending the Holidays alone. (This is a lonely time of year for many.)

The list is endless of the giving and sharing opportunities I found while doing research for this post, but I particularly liked the website payitforwardday.com, which provides really awesome and creative ways to make a difference in someone else’s life. I mean, it will make you want to do so much more than you’re doing now. And who knows, maybe if we begin our random acts of kindness now, the ripple effect will continue well into the New Year.

A sample of books available at DCPL on the topic of kindness:

Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders

Pay it Forward: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde

The Art of Being Kind by Stefan Einhorn

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Nov 20 2015

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

by Camille B

turkeySo, the Thanksgiving festivities are on the way and you’re mingling about trying to be a good host, making sure that everyone is feeling welcome and comfortable–parents, siblings, in-laws, a few friends and neighbors you invited. Suddenly you look across the room and spot an unwelcome visitor, the same one who showed up at your perfectly planned holiday last year and wreaked havoc. That’s right, Mr. Stress himself, all decked out in his finest, lurking in the shadows and waiting for his cue to rain on your parade. Your heart sinks. Who on earth invited him?

Well, it just so happens he could have come in with any number of your friends or relatives–perhaps that aunt who, even though you tell her every year a bottle of wine is perfectly fine, always insists on bringing that special dish that nobody likes but everybody has to eat anyway, or maybe it’s your brother-in-law who goes around pushing everyone’s buttons–and oh, he’s here for the entire weekend. Then there’s your son. You clearly remember telling him to ask first, but he still arrives at the last minute with two of his buddies in tow–and they’re all the size of giants. You don’t want to be a scrooge, but there goes half the turkey!

Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, the Thanksgiving Holiday–a day when we come together with friends and loved ones to relax and give thanks, not just for what we have but for each other as well–can prove to be more stressful than we care to admit, testing the endurance of even the most patient folk.

And this is true not only for the host, but sometimes for guests as well–that new son or daughter-in-law, boyfriend or girlfriend, or invited co-worker. Guests can find themselves caught in the middle of Thanksgiving sagas and dramas that easily spiral out of control from simple things (like fights over the remote, a turkey leg or a wishbone) to really heated debates and brawls that stem from arguments over politics, sports teams or just the re-ignition of old family feuds.

Oh yes, Mr. Stress will show up at your Thanksgiving dinner. You can count on it. And though you may not be able to eradicate his presence altogether, you can minimize the role that he’ll play at your gathering by being prepared and always a few steps ahead.

Host

There’s no way you can do everything yourself, so don’t even try. Brushing away people when they try to offer their assistance, while at the same time complaining at the end of the day that you had to do it all by yourself–you can’t have it both ways. Many hands make the work light, even small hands. And yes, you can enlist your guests as well.

Things don’t have to be perfect. So your cousin Rae-Rae didn’t mash the potatoes quite the way you like them, there’s no need to blow a gasket and call for everybody to get out of your kitchen. She was only trying to help. Believe me, no matter which way you offer up the potatoes–unless they’re burnt to a crisp–they will disappear right along with the rest of the meal. Take heart if it doesn’t look like it came out of Martha Stewart’s kitchen. Your family and guests will still love it and you–and appreciate your effort and hard work.

First-time hosts: Keep it simple. Now is not the time to try and impress your new mother-in-law with your non-existent culinary skills. Unless you’re a naturally great cook with event planning experience under your belt, you’ll probably make a few blunders along the way. No love loss. A lot of people still dread Thanksgiving preparations even after umpteen years of doing it. If this is just your first go at it, grab a good friend or two to help out. Your day will come when you will be able to put forth a Thanksgiving feast just like Mama used to make.

Try to be the most gracious host you can be. It’s sometimes hard I know. Maybe your aunt’s gesture was well intended, even though you had to chow down her questionable casserole made from that very secret recipe. It probably made her feel good just to be a part of things and offer up her contribution–and she may not be the only one you have to make peace with. Thanksgiving conflicts flare up like wild fires in an instant. Though you cannot be everywhere at once, you can do your best to ignore negative comments, steer conversations to otherwise neutral topics when you sense what’s coming (some people are habitual offenders), and basically douse water on any embers you see that can potentially erupt into an altercation.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Guests

Don’t come empty-handed. Even though your host insists that you bring just yourself and your appetite, it’s still a nice gesture to bring a non-food item or beverage–wine, flowers, or something that is needed as part of the event, like napkins, forks or even a gift for your host.

Let the host know ahead of time if you have any dietary issues. It can be really stressful to go through all the trouble of fixing a great feast only to realize at the last minute that someone cannot partake because they’re vegan or have specific allergies to items on the menu. Knowing ahead of time can enable your host to consider your diet in the meal planning.

Ask before you invade your host’s kitchen, and space as a whole, as this can be a good way to lose a limb or not get invited back next year. Unless you’re a really good friend of the family and you’re quite certain they’ll be okay with it, don’t go rummaging around in the refrigerator or cupboards, stand around in the kitchen obstructing foot traffic, or begin doing chores you weren’t asked to do.

Overall, I honestly believe that the almost euphoric anticipation we feel towards the Thanksgiving holiday and what it represents is too great–and the time and effort we put into making it the best day possible for our loved ones too precious–to let trivial matters come in and ruin it in mere seconds or minutes, causing us to sometimes forget why we came together in the first place. So this year when you spot Mr. Stress worming his way through your holiday celebrations, don’t grow wary, let him bring it! You’re prepared.

ArtOfTheVisitEase into your Thanksgiving season with the following selection from DCPL:

The Art of the Visit: Being the Perfect Host, Becoming the Perfect Guest by Kathy Bertone

Keep Your Cool! What You Should Know About Stress by Sandy Donovan

How to Survive Your In-Laws: Advice from Hundreds of Married Couples Who Did – Andrea Syrtash, special editor

How to Cook a Turkey: And All the Other Trimmings from the editors of Fine Cooking

Holiday Collection (DVD)

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Feb 14 2015

Presidents’ Day

by Glenda

presidents-dayThis year, we celebrate Presidents’ Day on February 16, 2015–but what is Presidents’ Day? Initially, it was called Washington’s Birthday to celebrate our first President George Washington. Later, Presidents’ Day was meant to include President Abraham Lincoln. However, there were and still are states that do not like to celebrate President Lincoln.

The states of Massachusetts and Virginia celebrate Washington’s Birthday and it is called “Washington’s Birthday” or “George Washington’s Birthday.”  The term “Presidents Day” was informally coined to include multiple presidents. In most states, Presidents’ Day includes all former presidents and the current president. When I was younger I was told we celebrate Presidents’ Day in February because most presidents were born in February–but that is not true. Six presidents were born in October and only four were born in February. Guess which four? Ronald Reagan was born February 6, 1911; William Henry Harrison was born February 9, 1773; Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, and George Washington was born February 22, 1732. The six presidents who were born in October are Jimmy Carter, born October 1, 1924; Rutherford B. Hayes, born October 4, 1822; Chester A. Arthur, born October 5, 1829; Dwight D. Eisenhower, born October 14, 1890; Theodore Roosevelt, born October 27, 1858, and John Adams born October 30, 1735.

The federal holiday honoring George Washington was originally implemented by an Act of Congress in 1879 for government offices in Washington and it expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices. Initially, the holiday was celebrated on President Washington’s actual birthday of February 22.  On January 1, 1971, the holiday was changed and Washington’s Birthday was celebrated on the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

Source- Strauss, V. (2014, February 2). Why Presidents’ Day is slightly strange? Retrieved from The Washington Post.

If you would like more information about Presidents’ Day, check out these items from DCPL:

Presidents’ Day by Natalie M. Rosinsky

Presidents’ Day by Sheri Dean

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Dec 31 2014

Another One Bites the Dust!?

by Hope L

newyear3Well, another year has come and gone. And because of the New Year, but also because my birthday falls in a week or so, I usually take this time to reflect on my life and ask the tough questions: What am I doing?, Where am I going?, Has life passed me by?, and Should I clean out the basement?

I blogged some time back about how I was thinking of getting older since moving my parents to a retirement home. Actually, it was more of a WHEN DID I GET OLD??!!! meltdown, complete with commentary and suggestions by luminaries like Suzanne Somers and Dave Barry and specialists on memory and aging. I can’t remember what I said, but it could have involved a tantrum or a curse word or two.

Now though, I am sort of looking forward to the New Year. And I have some good news to report. Yes, straight from my current, regular-must-read, AARP: The Magazine (available at a number of DCPL branches–check with your local branch), I just discovered “The Good News About Bad Habits” in the Dec./Jan. Healthy You issue (p. 14).  Let me share some bad habits which can actually be good for you.

Habit #1: Having Coffee for Breakfast (just coffee) – Why it’s not so bad: Breakfast is vital–if you’re bailing hay. But if the most physically demanding thing you do is reboot your computer, you can get away with little or no breakfast. In fact, two new studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition find that missing this meal doesn’t affect weight, cholesterol or resting metabolism.

Habit #2: Obsessively Watching House of Cards (and I’m guilty of this) – Why it’s not so bad: Taking time to see what Frank and Claire Underwood are up to is not only OK, it can stimulate the brain as you keep up with the complex plot, notes pop culture expert Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good for You.

Habit #3:  Occasionally Blowing Your Stack – Why it’s not so bad:  If you get steamed but never release it, you’re eventually going to blow like a shaken can of soda. Suppressing anger isn’t healthy, says Sandra Thomas, a professor at the University of Tennessee. A study she co-authored showed that older women who expressed their anger–albeit in healthier ways than blowing their top–had lower levels of the inflammatory markers that are linked to cardiovascular disease. (WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THIS YEARS AGO?!!)

Habit #4: Sharing Harmless Gossip – Why it’s not so bad: Sharing harmless gossip (You’ll never believe what Bob told Bill…) with friends or co-workers can build social bonds and boost some positive behaviors, according to a recent University of Michigan study.

“Habit #5:  Intending to Cut the Grass, but… zzzzz – Why it’s not so bad: Older adults who take a daily 30-minute nap get a much-needed midday pick-me-up without a trip to Starbucks, say experts at the National Sleep Foundation.

Well, by golly, I think I’ll follow this sage advice and hang onto some good, bad habits. And maybe next year I’ll clean out the basement…

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Rancho Mirage Holiday CardHere at DCPL we have an annual tradition of exchanging holiday cards between branches. Recently I learned that the tradition of libraries and librarians exchanging seasonal greeting cards is an old one. In this blog post from a couple of weeks ago, the Library History Buff shares a few holiday cards from his personal collection. He explains that some cards are sent by a library institution, others by the library director or other library administrator, and sometimes by a library’s staff collectively.

Happy Holidays from your friends at DCPL.

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Nov 28 2014

A Nation’s Tastes

by Dea Anne M

thanksgivingtablesWho would have predicted, least of all the hardworking writers and editors of the New York Times, the level of outcry and (mostly good-humored) dismay that their November 18th article The United States of Thanksgiving would generate? The idea behind the article is that there are iconic holiday dishes unique to each state in the Union as well as Puerto Rico. (Click the image to the right for a larger version of the condensed visual overview.) Some selections make sense, such as Georgia’s Pecan Pie and Idaho’s Hasselback Potatoes with Garlic Paprika Oil. Others seem…well…questionable, like Nebraska’s Standing Rib Roast. But no selection has caused as much of an (albeit mild) uproar than the choice for Minnesota of Grape Salad. As writer David Tanis explains, this is a concoction made up of simply grapes, sour cream and brown sugar. Now that actually sounds pretty good to me, just not…Thanksgiving-ish (and no one could accuse me of being a culinary traditionalist). Responses to the choice, particularly from Minnesotans themselves, have been good-natured. Check out #grapegate for some of the outcry. Texas weighs in too, as in as this piece from the Austin360 food blog explaining that Texans don’t eat Turkey Tamales until after Thanksgiving. Perhaps the ultimate “take-down” of the Times article is Linda Holmes of NPR weighing in the next day. As Holmes, a former decade-long resident of Minnesota explains–with her usual dry wit–morel mushrooms or wild rice would more accurately reflect the culinary traditions of the Land of 10,000 Lakes. In any case, the public response was so quick and dramatic that the Public Editor for the New York Times issued a piece on November 20th that wryly characterized the original article as an “epic fail” and Tanis’s fellow NYT writer Kim Severson tweeted, “The great grape scandal of 2014! Headed to your state Thurs. Will personally apologize to every citizen.”

Of course, Thanksgiving 2014 has passed but you can always start thinking about next year. To help you out, make a note now about these resources from DCPL.

Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well by Sam Siftonthanksgiving

Choosing Sides: From Holidays to Everyday, 130 Delicious Recipes to Make the Meal by Tara Mataraza Desmond

Thanksgiving 101: Celebrate America’s Favorite Holiday with America’s Thanksgiving Expert by Rick Rodgers

The Healthy Hedonist Holidays: A Year of Multicultural, Vegetarian-Friendly Holiday Feasts by Myra Kornfeld

A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies by Ashley English

Of course, you may be like me and skip the turkey and pumpkin pie. This Thanksgiving just passed, I will have cooked what has now become my “traditional” meal which includes roasted duck, turnip gratin and chocolate mousse.

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Jul 3 2014

Celebrate Independence Day

by Glenda

usaflag_flying Our flag represents our independence and our unity as a nation. The flag of the United States of America has a wonderful history. The American flag is protected daily by men and women within the United States borders and overseas. Our flag even stands on the surface of the moon. Americans have fought to proudly display the flag of the United States of America, so raise your flag and celebrate. For more information about the flag of the United States of America visit your local library. Here are some books you may want to check out: Star-Spangled Banner: Our Nation and Its Flag by Margaret Sedeen, The First American Flag by Kathy Allen or What is the Story of Our Flag? by Janice Behrens.

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Of course, not everyone celebrates Christmas and those who do don’t celebrate in exactly the same way.  My own holidays have tended to be fairly low-key especially in recent years. I bake cookies,  but I normally try to avoid actual shopping as much as possible. As far as decorating my home goes, I hang a wreath on my front door and put up a Christmas tree and that’s it. I have to say that decorating the tree is one of my favorite holiday activities. After celebrating a fair number of holidays,  I now have a couple of boxes packed with  ornaments.  Each one calls up a fond memory as I put it on the tree.

Do you put up a tree? Mine is artificial but for many people only a live tree will do. Or consider a tree made of…books…as in this post from Jesse last year.

How about ornaments? My tree decorating strategy mostly involves just trying to find room for everything (really…I have a lot of ornaments!) but I’ve known people who create subject themes (Star Wars anyone?) for their trees or devise a strict color scheme. Of course the decorating magazines this time of year are full of ideas for beautifully decorated trees.

Do you need new decorating ideas for your home? Are you decorating for the first time? Either way, DCPL has resources for you.

bestIf you prefer a traditional approach, check out Victoria 500 Christmas Ideas: celebrate the season in splendor by Kimberly Meisner. Or you might consider Best of Christmas Ideas from the editors of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Are you the crafty type? You might love the ideas in A Very Beaded Christmas: 46 projects that glitter, twinkle and shine by Terry Taylor or the Christmas section in Martha Stewart’s Handmade Holiday Crafts by the doyenne of crafting perfection …Martha Stewart. Do you like to reuse, recycle and reduce your carbon footprint? If so, check out I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas by Anna Getty.

historyFinally,  if you’re interested in learning how Christmas has evolved over time, don’t miss two excellent histories of the holiday—Stephen Nissenbaum’s The Battle for Christmas and Christmas in America: a history by Penne L. Restad. You’ll learn that the Puritans banned the holiday altogether—associated as it was with rioting and public drunkeness. You’ll also learn that for all we (at least many of us) bemoan the warping of this family holiday into a tangle of commercial excess—it was actually the Victorians who transformed the holiday into what we think of as the “traditional” Christmas which includes Santa Claus, Christmas cards and what had been, up until then, a German novelty…the decorated Christmas tree.

Do you decorate for Christmas? What’s your decorating style?

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Nov 29 2013

The feast…and its aftermath

by Dea Anne M

By the time you read this post, Thanksgiving will have come and gone but it’s never too early to start thinking about next year.  Whether you host a big gathering for which you do all the cooking or you enjoy a potluck with friends, DCPL has resources to help you prepare the best holiday meal ever.

Let’s say you want to do a traditional Thanksgiving but it’s the first time you’ve siftonprepared it. Or maybe you’ve been asked to bring a dish and haven’t a clue as to how to make it. An excellent resource is Thanksgiving: how to cook it well by Sam Sifton. This is a calm, authoritative guide to everything Thanksgiving and could be the only Thanksgiving cookbook that you will ever need. Also well worth considering is How To Cook a Turkey: and all the other trimmings from the editors of  Fine Cooking magazine. A fine guide for beginners as well as experienced cooks, this book provides detailed instructions for all the well known holiday dishes.

Of course, not everyone wants to serve and eat a turkey. Maybe you are vegan bittmanor vegetarian or you just want to take the focus off of meat. For a really impressive compendium of vegetarian cooking, check out Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: simple meatless recipes for great food. This book has recipes for every vegetarian and vegan dish that you can imagine as well as excellent suggested menus. You’re sure to find plenty here to prepare the most festive of holiday feasts. And keep in mind The Heart of the Plate: vegetarian recipes for a new generation by Mollie Katzen. Katzen is the author of the well-regarded cookbooks The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Still Life With Menu and this most recent volume is just as charming and visually appealing as the two older books with less of an emphasis on dairy products and eggs.

Of course, Thanksgiving usually means leftovers…lots and lots of bubblyleftovers…and for many of us that’s the best part of the holiday. When I was growing up my family would usually just make up plates of whatever each person liked best and reheat but you might want to transform your leftovers into something that doesn’t so much resemble the holiday meal. Many think that casseroles are the right and classic home for leftovers. If you agree, check out the pleasures contained within the pages of Bake Until Bubbly: the ultimate casserole cookbook by Clifford A. Wright and James Villas’ Crazy for Casseroles: 275 all-American hot-dish classics.

sandwichesMaybe you believe that soup is the proper vehicle for your leftover turkey (including homemade turkey stock!). Soup fans should check out The Best Recipe: soups and stews from the editors at Cook’s Illustrated magazine and Sunday Soup: a year’s worth of mouth-watering, easy to make recipes by Betty Rosbottom. Maybe you’re a member of the club that considers turkey sandwiches the absolute ultimate. If so, let me suggest Susan Russo’s The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: recipes, history, and trivia for everything between sliced bread or Beautiful Breads and Fabulous Fillings: the best sandwiches in America by Margaux Sky.

What will I do with leftover turkey this year? Nothing! This week, I’m heading to my mom’s house and she has already announced that the menu is to be everybody’s favorite…lasagna.

How do you like your Thanksgiving leftovers?

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