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

November 2011

Nov 30 2011

Baking up memories

by Dea Anne M

I will never forget the Christmas Eve that I arrived home from college at about 7:30 pm. After hugging me, Mom said “You can start baking the cookies while the rest of us trim the tree!” Now I know that some folks actually do put up the tree the night before, but even for my “let’s do everything at the last minute” family this was a little extreme. Anyway, I put my stuff down, pulled out the bowls and pans, and got to work. I think my head hit the pillow just before Santa arrived but I got those cookies baked and another family holiday tradition was preserved.

I started doing the holiday baking when I was still in high school and it was always a happy task for me. My family’s taste (or maybe just mine!) veered more towards the buttery end of the goodie spectrum than the sugary, and the cookies I baked were invariably rich. Dad’s favorite was a shortbread-like toasted pecan bedecked bar known as Jan Hagel. I also baked a cookie that we called Jingle Bells—a complicated affair that involved making a rich, buttery dough, setting aside about a third of it, dividing the rest in half, and using food coloring to dye one half green and the other half red. I would then form each dough half into a log and then shape the log into a form approximating that of a bell. I’d then divide the uncolored dough in half, roll out each piece into a rectangle, and wrap the rectangles around the bell-logs. After chilling, I would take the dough, slice it, and bake the bells. Right now, you might be thinking that no cookie could possibly taste good enough to be worth that much effort, and you might be right. Still, Jingle Bells were one of those “wouldn’t be Christmas without it” items for my family and, for me, time more than well spent. As if Jingle Bells weren’t enough, I also always made my own favorite, Christmas Spritz. These little labors of love involved filling a cookie press with a…you guessed it…buttery dough and carefully pressing out tiny Christmas wreaths which I would then painstakingly decorate with sprinkles and nonpareils.

I still do holiday baking, although these days my choices involve cookies of the “drop ’em and bake ’em” variety. I have for several years now baked the same two cookies—one a chocolate and chocolate chip flavored with peppermint and the other an orange flavored drop stuffed with dried cranberries and orange zest. I usually spend the better part of a day baking dozens and dozens to give to friends, co-workers, and family. Every year, as I consider baking a different variety, someone will tell me how much they loved the orange-cranberry last year or drop some not-so-subtle hint about looking forward to the chocolate-chocolate mint, and so my own holiday tradition remains preserved.

Are you looking to change up your own holiday baking tradition or start a new one? If so, DCPL has resources to help.

You’ll find a stunning collection of cookie possibilities in The Gourmet Cookie Book: the single best recipe from each year 1941 -2009. As the title promises, the editors of Gourmet magazine (which ceased publication in 2009) have selected a “best” recipe from each year. The selections range from the homey (Aunt Sis’s Strawberry Tart Cookies) to the exotic (Grand Marnier Glazed Pain D’Epice Cookies). You’re sure to find a tradition-worthy recipe or two here.

Say what you will about Martha Stewart, she’s still a woman who knows her way around a kitchen. The DVD Martha’s Favorite Cookies from the folks at Martha Stewart Living Television will provide you with one-on-one instructions for baking 33 different cookies including Fig Bars and Coconut Pinwheels. Yum!

Of course, holiday baking is about more than cookies. Holiday Baking: new and traditional recipes for wintertime holidays by Sara Perry includes not just recipes for cookies, but also pastries, savory tarts, oven baked omelets, and other delicious sounding treats. As the title promises, the recipes run the gamut of holidays that we celebrate this time of year and include Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Boxing Day.

And of course the winter holidays are never just about Christmas. If your family celebrates Kwanzaa, be sure to check out Eric V. Copage’s Fruits of the Harvest: recipes to celebrate Kwanzaa and other holidays. This book offers a global wealth of recipes from people of African descent. I don’t know about you, but Jerked Pork Chops and Fresh Papaya Chutney with a side of Garlic-Cheddar Grits Souffle sounds pretty good to me. For Hanukkah celebrations, you couldn’t do better than Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook. This impressive volume offers history, lore, and 400 fabulous recipes from the woman who is considered by many to be the reigning expert on global Jewish cuisine.

Here’s hoping that your holidays are filled with happiness! Do you have a holiday cooking tradition?


Nov 28 2011

Giving Thanks for Football

by Greg H

I am a football fan but not a fanatic.  College or professional, most weeks during the season I’m content to find out the scores and watch the highlights on ESPN.  There’s only one occasion on which I feel like I must have football and that is Thanksgiving Day. “But why?”, the purists might ask. “What does football have to do with giving thanks?”  The short answer is if  Thanksgiving has a big enough tent to accommodate an enormous, inflated SpongeBob balloon, well then, there’s room for football too.

If you insist on a longer answer, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame‘s website, many high schools and colleges played football games on Thanksgiving Day, a tradition that has “faded into oblivion”.  I seem to remember hearing my mother talk of how there used to be a “Turkey Bowl” game played every Thanksgiving by some of the men in my home town.  The point is, I guess, there is precedent, however ancient.

The Detroit Lions have remained at the forefront of the Turkey Day football tradition.  The Lions have played on every Thanksgiving Day since 1934 with the exception of the war years of 1939 through 1944.  Considering the Lions’ mostly woeful performances since the 1950’s, it’s kind of nice to think that for one day a year, even if viewers are only too zonked out on tryptophan to change the channel, the eyes of America are on the Detroit Lions.

After your leftovers are gone you might want to check out the following items available through the DeKalb County Library System:


Nov 23 2011

Hurrah For The Pumpkin Pie!

by Joseph M

Unlike some other holidays, there aren’t many popular traditional songs associated with Thanksgiving.  In fact, the only one that I can think of is “Over the River and Through the Woods”.  It was composed by Lydia Maria Child (who is best remembered for being creator of the piece despite her other work as a writer and social activist) and was originally published in 1844 as a poem in her book, Flowers for Children, Volume 2.  DCPL doesn’t own that title, but we do have several illustrated versions of the poem, as well as a collection of her letters.  Click here to take a look at the catalog listings.

As the title of this post suggests, I’m ready for some pumpkin pie!  Pumpkin pie covered with whipped cream is quite possibly my favorite traditional Thanksgiving food.  What meal component are you looking forward to the most?


Eruption of the Cordon del Caulle. (© Ricardo Mohr)

Eruption of the Cordon del Caulle. (© Ricardo Mohr)

National Geographic is currently holding its annual photography contest, and so far over 12000 images have been submitted for consideration. The Atlantic’s news photography blog In Focus has posted an entry showcasing some of the amazing photos that have been submitted thus far. If you like those, you can browse all the other submissions here, or view weekly editors picks. You can also check out some of last year’s winners. And if you’d like to submit an entry yourself, you’ve still got time, the deadline is November 30th.

You may also check out issues of National Geographic at the Library. Currently, all branches carry the magazine except for Hairston Crossing and Salem Panola Libraries.

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Nov 16 2011

Man Make Movie

by Jimmy L

I recently discovered the movies of Ramin Bahrani, a young American film director born to Iranian parents, and I have not been more excited about a director in a long time. Though I’ve not yet seen his first movie Man Push Cart, his second feature length Chop Shop really blew me away. It’s about an orphaned 12 year old boy and his 16 year old sister who are trying to make it on the streets of New York City. More specifically, in the Iron Triangle, a sprawling junkyard of auto repair and body shops in Queens next to a stadium where baseball players earn millions. What’s most impressive about the movie is its naturalistic style—the dialogue is messy the way real speech is, the actors have an undeniable chemistry with each other, and the scenes unfold as if it were an unscripted documentary (even though the effect was painstakingly planned and executed). Look elsewhere if you are craving a sentimental movie—Chop Shop doesn’t provide easy answers or nice resolutions, preferring complexity and subtlety. But it’s not a depressing movie either; our two protagonists take life as it comes and make the best of it, having fun along the way and not letting setbacks get them down.

His latest movie Goodbye Solo is like a cross between Driving Miss Daisy and the Iranian film Taste of Cherry (also highly recommended). In it, a Senegalese taxi driver befriends an old man who wishes to be driven to Blowing Rock where, it is implied, he will commit suicide. Solo, the charismatic taxi driver, wants to talk him out of ending his life. At the same time, he has his own family troubles to deal with: marital disagreements, a young daughter growing up, and another baby on the way. Like Chop Shop, this movie provides no easy answers but gives you a peek into an unfamiliar world and makes you think and feel. It’s one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen in recent memory, and I highly recommend it.

Though some people have pointed out that he specializes in films about marginal parts of society (orphaned children and immigrant taxi drivers), Bahrani himself doesn’t see it quite that way:

Even though people say I make films about the margins and minorities, I disagree. I think I make films about the majority, which is hand to mouth existence. That is how most people in this world live. Despite what Hollywood and also what Independent Cinema in America shows you, which are educated, affluent, beautiful white people. This is not the majority of the world. I’m not saying there’s no room for that, but for 98% of cinema in America to be dominated by this I think is not correct. I think it’s a dictatorship of dreams and imaginations.

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Nov 15 2011

Libraries of the Past

by Greg H

A week or so ago one of my colleagues wrote an entry about The Libraries of the Future. I find that I have enough trouble wrapping my head around the Libraries of the Present, so I started to think back, fondly, to the library of my past I grew up in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and our library was the Adams Memorial Library, located at 1112 Ligonier St. where it intersects with Chestnut St.  My grandmother lived on Fairmont, just a few blocks from the library. The day I got my first library card I remember lying stretched out on her sofa reading the first book I ever checked  out, Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling Clancy Holling.

At that time the library was under the management of  the “legendary”, to quote the library’s webpage,  Sara McComb.  She was a tiny, spinsterish woman with slightly hunched shoulders and could be seen daily, walking through town to and from  the library in her very sensible shoes. She never came off as menacing but the old Victorian house she lived in, the one surrounded by the pointy black wrought iron fencing, certainly did.  It very much resembled the type of house that trick or treaters told scary stories about and avoided and, I think, added to Miss McComb’s mystique.

My library of the past even had a technology that has made a lasting impression on me, maybe because even then I understood it.   While checking out I would watch the library staff process each book, making their notations with a pencil and then tilting that pencil forward to stamp the due date with this gizmo attached above the pencil point!  It struck me at the cleverest labor-saving device I’d ever seen to that point in my life and I guess it’s still in my top ten.

All in all, my hometown library probably was little different from most anyone else’s. Still, it will always be a special place to me, as is any place that has enhanced my love of books and reading.

The following books about libraries are available through the DeKalb County Public Library system:

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Nov 11 2011

A Plum of a Movie

by Amanda L

Over a decade ago, I was looking for a light read when a coworker suggested reading Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money. I must admit that the premise grabbed me at once because of my previous career. I used to work in retail security and my main job was to catch shoplifters. The main character, Stephanie Plum, is a bounty hunter for her cousin Vinny’s bail bondsman company. Stephanie’s job is to round up the people that Vinny throws her way and take them back to jail.

Janet Evanovich introduces a wide variety of, shall we say, interesting characters. Stephanie has two love interests that are always intersecting her life and job. There is Joe Morelli, a pretty straight laced cop who went to high school with Stephanie. Her other love interest is the not so kosher Ranger who is also a bounty hunter. Her family has a wide variety of characters, but my favorite is grandma. You never know what she will do or how she might potentially embarrass Stephanie. Each book in the series has a variety of mystery and murder (not to mention the different cars that are blown up…).

About ten years ago, I remember reading that someone had purchased the rights to the Stephanie Plum books to turn into movies. At that time, fans were deciding who would play which character. The one person that stood out for me was Estelle Getty to play grandma. Fast forward today, the movie is actually turning into reality. They have announced that Kathryn Heigl will be playing Stephanie, Debbie Reynolds will be playing grandma, Daniel Sunjata as Ranger and Jason O’Mara as Joe.

Here is the trailer for the upcoming movie.


For those of you who have not heard of this series, the Library has all seventeen titles of the series. For those Evanovich fans, what do you think about the casting? Who would you have liked to have seen as Stephanie, Joe, Ranger, Lulu or grandma?


Nov 9 2011

Seven Billion

by Jimmy L

According to the United Nations, the world population reached seven billion on Monday October 31, 2011. This figure is completely inconceivable to me, but the BBC website has created a website that makes it easier to see this number in the context of its numerous contributing factors. If you enter in your date of birth (since this is a British website, make sure you enter day first, then month and year), it will tell you what your number is,  i.e. how many people were alive at the time you were born. It will also tell you how many people have ever lived since history began (78.7 billion). If you click “Next”, it will break down population growth by country, gender, and other factors. If you’re interested in thinking about this topic more, check out some of these books:


Nov 7 2011

Libraries of the Future

by Jesse M

Are Automated Book Delivery Systems (ABDS) the future of libraries?

At many libraries throughout the country, space is at a premium. The problem of storage and access to library materials, especially rare and/or rarely used collections, has been approached in a number of different ways. Some libraries choose to simply store these less frequently utilized materials in massive warehouses, sending couriers to retrieve them as needed (in some cases, such repositories are shared between multiple branches in a given region). Other institutions have embarked on mass digitization projects to transfer their bulky print collections into electronic formats which are easier to store and access. And then there are libraries such as the University of Chicago’s new Mansueto library, which have taken advantage of technological advances to create automated book delivery systems.

This New York Times article provides some details about the operations of the Mansueto library and other ABDS like it. Materials are kept in steel cases roughly 50 feet below ground until requested, at which point a complex system of cranes and elevators retrieve the needed text and delivers it to library staff.

At this point, you might be wondering, “But what about the serendipitous experience of browsing upon the perfect book by happenstance?” Luckily, many of these ABDS come equipped with some variety of virtual browse feature such as that found at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library at NC State University (a description of their virtual browse system appears about 1:20 into the linked video). Additionally, ABDS exist partially to free up space on the cramped bookshelves of the main libraries which they are associated with, so the traditional browsing experience is still available in most cases as well.

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Nov 4 2011

Dreaming of Reading

by Patricia D

When I was a kid long car trips looked like this: whoever was the baby at the time was in the front seat between our parents, the rest of us were crammed into the back, playing the classic “I’m not touching you” game.  Once everyone was asleep, I would lean forward, hanging over the bench seat in front of me to talk to my dad.  He drove like a man on a mission, chain smoking his way down the two lane roads to our destination, searching for a new AM station as necessary.  My Mom?  Always, always, sound asleep on the other side of the front seat, arm around the baby, head cushioned from the window by a pillow, a book open in her lap.  If you’re trying to date this little story let me spell out the clues for you: no interstate or FM radio, a little second hand smoke wasn’t going to hurt anyone and the unrestrained baby in the front seat was in the safest spot in the car.  If you’ve picked any point in the sixties you win.

My siblings and I supposed, in our gender specific world, that daddies drove cars and mommies slept in them.  I realized, as a grown up, that my mother didn’t necessarily intend to sleep in the car (note the presence of an open book in her lap) but as soon as she got a break from looking after a big family she simply passed out, her much anticipated reading time blotted out by fatigue.  I realized this because I’m a mommy who frequently wakes up face first in a book.

As I read to Junior at 7:00 p.m. I rock.  We did Because of Winn-Dixie because of we watched the movie, so now we’re working our way through the Tale of Desperaux.  My reading is expressive while my English major brain marvels at the structure and the symbolism DiCammillo has packed into a pretty good story.  We stop and talk about the story, and best of all, Junior is so taken with this book that she hides it under her pillow so I can’t ” accidentally” return it before we finish (I’m not proud of this but I just couldn’t read another Junie B. Jones.)

7:00 p.m. is great, but 10:00 p.m., now that’s a different story entirely.  I have learned that I need something light and easy because I’m so tired I just can’t focus for long.  The Hemingses of Monticello have done me in, I gave up on Minders of Make-believe and please don’t ask me about Cleopatra: A Life—I’m betting she dies but I still don’t really know how.  Christopher Hitchens’ new collection is nice because it’s lots of short essays, but mostly I fall back on old favorites—the King of Attolia and its companion books, the Grand Sophy, anything by Christopher Moore—and cookbooks.  The good folks at America’s Test Kitchen provide wonderful bedtime reading because each recipe comes with a little story.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking reads better than you’d think and of course my crush Jacques Pepin always has something new to read.  Books about cooking are okay too.  I’ve just  finished Kathleen Flinn’s The Sharper your Knife the Less you Cry.  It was perfect—short chapters, little life lessons and it left me dreaming of butter, pastry and crispy duck skin.