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

July 2015

Jul 31 2015

Buy One, Get One Free

by Camille B

Have you ever stood in line behind people at the checkout counter who had coupons and none of the coupons matched the items they were buying? The coupon said Bounty paper towels and they had Scott. They needed to get creamy peanut butter and they had crunchy. Or, they were supposed to buy two packs of bacon to get the third one free and they had only one. Even worse, the item in the cart matched the coupon but the coupon hGirl Shoppingad expired. Bummer.

Now I’m no extreme couponer myself, nor any type of shopping guru, but I do love a good sale as much as the next guy and always feel that sense of satisfaction when my money is well spent. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t like getting a good deal on a purchase. Whether it’s saving money on airline tickets, finding marked-down brands at the thrift store, or buying a pair of shoes at a BOGO sale, we have to admit that it feels good to snag a really sweet deal.

For some shoppers, this feeling can be almost euphoric–and I’m thinking about the after Thanksgiving sale while I’m writing this. Every year we see rational Americans totally losing it at these Black Friday super sales, getting crushed and trampled upon in the hopes of being one of the lucky firsts to get their hands on that big screen TV or other hot ticketed item, and even coming up with strategic moves with friends that would enable them to better divide and conquer.

Some of you are probably smiling right now as you reminisce about the madness. You had a blast as you slid across store aisles at the crack of dawn, dodging laden shopping carts whilst caught up in the throngs of the shopping frenzy.

For others, the mere thought of standing out in the cold at 5 a.m., waiting for your favorite store to open, shoots little darts of fear into your heart–I mean, there’s absolutely no way!

Given all of this, whether you’re a hardcore bargain shopper who goes all out, a shopper who has no clue about what he or she is doing, or one who loves a good sale but would still like to leave the store in one piece and with some shred of dignity, I think some basic rules should apply.

First of all, play nice.

Don’t be the type of bargain shopper who gives the rest of us a bad name. Don’t…

  • hoard items, hiding them so others shoppers won’t be able to find them–so that only you will know where they are on your return visit to the store.
  • grab up all of the merchandize on sale, leaving none for the other shoppers coming behind you. (It’s not your personal sale.)
  • run over other shoppers with your cart trying to get to the last sale item.
  • insult the cashier when you get to the register and your coupons don’t match the items in your cart.
  • take the last sales item out of someone else’s shopping cart. (I’ve never actually seen this one with my own eyes, but I understand it does happen.)

Shop sensibly.

  • Be organized and prepared. Double-check the date on your coupon before making your purchase. As a matter of fact, check it before even leaving the house and wasting a trip to the store.
  • Read store signs and labels carefully and make sure that they match the items you’re getting. You don’t want the embarrassment of holding up the line while an employee runs off to check on a price or name brand. (Awkward.)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a rain check–most stores are really good at offering them when they run out of sales items and will allow you to come back at a later date to make your purchase.
  • Sometimes you may have to bow out gracefully and take a pass on a coupon, even though it’s a really good one. Yes, three dollars off on a bag of cat litter is a really good deal, but do you even have a cat?

When a bargain seems too good to be true, it usually is.

  • Think twice about buying a hundred-dollar laptop that comes from the trunk of a car from some guy named Jeff. This might sound like a no-brainer, but people who get caught up in the thrill of getting something for nothing often make irrational decisions they wouldn’t normally make.
  • Beware of fake coupons, bogus sales, and sometimes even honest mistakes made by the companies themselves. As was the case earlier this year when United Airlines mistakenly offered customers first class, round trip tickets for $74.00–due to a glitch in their system and a “third party error”–the bookings were not honored by the airline, leaving hundreds of customers who tried to take advantage of the deal furious. These instances may be rare, but they do happen. So if it seems too good of a deal, investigate a little further before making an unwise purchase

So, when was the last time you had a real cha-ching of a deal?

And what are some of the favorite bargains that you lie in wait for? In the meantime, take a look at these books at DCPL:bargain_fever

Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World by Mark Ellwood

How to Shop for Free: Shopping Secrets for Smart Women Who Love to Get Something for Nothing by Kathy Spencer with Samantha Rose

Smart Shopping by Cecelia Minden

The Everything Couponing Book: Clip Your Way to Incredible Savings by Karen Wilmes


Jul 27 2015

Fish with Benefits

by Rebekah B

go fish education center buildingAs the summer draws to a close, families may still be seeking out some educational opportunities to prepare kids for returning to school.

As many of you may know, DCPL offers a variety of attraction passes that include the Georgia State Parks Pass, the Zoo Atlanta DVD/Pass, and the Puppetry Arts Pass (not currently available, as the museum is in the process of expansion and renovation). The lesser known of these passes may be the Go Fish Pass. You may have visited Perry, GA, as I have, when taking your kids to an All-State Band audition. If not, the purpose of this post is to inform you about what there is to see and do in and around Perry and to make your visit to the Go Fish Center the focal point of a highly educational, fun, day trip, of interest to adults and to kids.

go fish center fishing simulatorThe pass for the Go Fish Education Center allows up to 4 people to enter free of charge. The Center is located in Perry, Georgia (click on the link to view the location on Google Maps), about a one-hour drive from Atlanta. At the Go Fish Education Center, regional species of freshwater fish as well as a variety of reptiles and aquatic wildlife are exhibited in aquariums, and a variety of wildlife conservation programs for all ages are included in the educational programming. Local Georgia habitats are also featured, and visitors can test their skills on hunting and fishing simulators as well as learn how fish are raised in a state-of-the-art hatchery. On the Go Fish web-site from 7 am to 8 pm daily, you can watch a live webcam broadcast of the fish swimming in the 15-foot-deep aquariums of the Piedmont Reservoir exhibit.

massee lane gardensBefore I first visited Perry, I asked some of my well-traveled book club friends what else we might do in and around Perry so we could make a day trip of the All-State Band auditions. My friend Betty, an avid gardener, advised us to visit the Massee Lane Gardens of the American Camellia Society, in Fort Valley, GA. The gardens are intimate, with a wide variety of camellias, of course, and brick paved shaded walkways dotted with mile markers and millstones, part of the collections of the originator of the gardens, Mr. David Strother. The plantings also include a rose garden and a small Japanese garden with water features as well as access to adjacent pecan groves.

andersonville cemeteryBetty also told us that the National Prisoner of War Museum is nearby, which is adjacent to the Andersonville Civil War historic site. The POW museum is also the acting visitor’s center for the park and is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm, closing only for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. The Camp Sumpter Military Prison was the largest confederate military prison during the Civil War, and of the nearly 45,000 Union soldiers imprisoned here, about 13,000 died due to highly insalubrious conditions. The museum visit is free of charge and the indoor collections include many fascinating and highly personal artifacts that document the lives of soldiers from a variety of conflicts in American history. Visitors can walk through the park, exploring reconstructions of parts of the Andersonville blockade as well as the Andersonville National Cemetery. According to the museum website, the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site is just 22 miles from Andersonville.

yoders restaurantIn addition to these great places to visit, Betty told me that she and her husband also enjoy dining at a local Amish-style restaurant and bakery near Montezuma, GA, which serves southern comfort style food and a variety of deserts, including shoofly pie.  We didn’t go to the restaurant, but it seemed like a nice cultural attraction.

Take advantage of the Go Fish pass to visit rural central Georgia. You may see, as I did, clumps of cotton bunched along the edges of the roadway. Not being a native Georgian or southerner, I had never seen cotton growing before…and at first, I wondered why there was so much trash along the road’s edge! The pecan groves and peach orchards are lovely to see as well.





Jul 22 2015

Discovery of a Life

by Amie P

Ever since my mom put Russell Freedman’s biography of Eleanor Roosevelt in my hands, I’ve been fascinated by her life and work. In fact, if anyone were to ask me which woman’s image should be placed onto U.S. currency first, Eleanor Roosevelt would be my pick.

It’s easy to tell, even decades after her death, that she didn’t let anything stand in the way of what she wanted to do—not a horrific childhood, a straying husband, political opponents who believed she was the wrong gender to do anything important. Not a national depression. Not a world war.

Her accomplishments are astounding.  She completely redefined the role of the First Lady, traveling extensively throughout the country and the world to inspect hospitals, visit troops, campaign for her husband, give speeches, and oversee the work of federal commissions. She was a United States delegate to the United Nations and, due to her intense work on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, remains the only individual delegate to ever receive a standing ovation from the General Assembly. She pushed for greater political power for women, equal rights for people of all backgrounds and nationalities—and in her spare time, wrote a syndicated column six days a week, titled “My Day,” from 1936 all the way through 1962.

The joke, portrayed in a political cartoon, is that Eleanor’s husband, FDR, prayed every night “Dear God, please make Eleanor a little tired.” It does seem as though nothing could wear her out.

eleanorI would still recommend Russell Freedman’s biography, Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery, as a good introduction to this fascinating person. If you’re more interested in knowing what she had to say for herself, try Eleanor Roosevelt’s My Day, a collection from her syndicated column, edited by Rochelle Chadakoff.


Or if you’re interested in all the famous Roosevelts, including Eleanor’s Uncle Theodore and Eleanor’s husband (fifth cousin to her uncle) Franklin Delano, I recommend The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. This item is available either as a seven-disc documentary, or you can check out the companion book.

For more primary source information on Eleanor Roosevelt and FDR, check out the webpage of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.  They have scanned and digitized a huge number of documents, including some of Eleanor Roosevelt’s correspondence, letters between FDR and Winston Churchill, and declassified papers about Pearl Harbor and the atomic bomb. The archives can be found here.

I’d like to think that Eleanor and I could have become friends had we met.  I share a similar mindset to hers regarding how we ought to spend our lives—this quote from her April 3, 1936 “My Day” column seems like proof:

“I could not help but wish that more people could realize the unselfish services that the librarians, throughout the country, have performed during the past few years. In the face of salary cuts and decreased appropriations for books, they have carried on and made their libraries a refuge and center for many people who sorely needed friendly contacts. I am more and more impressed as I grow older by the unsung heroes of the world, and wish that some one would write an epic about those who carry the brunt of the world’s work on their shoulders, receiving little attention in return.”

Thank you, Eleanor.


Jul 20 2015

National Merry-Go-Round Day

by Glenda

merry-go-roundOn July 25th we celebrate National Merry-Go-Round Day. This is an unofficial holiday–but it is fun to ride on merry-go-rounds, so let’s celebrate. The merry-go-round (or carousel) has an interesting history. In the 1100s during the Crusades, European soldiers watched the Turkish and Arabian horsemen compete in a game. The game, similar to jousting, was taken very seriously by its participants. The European onlookers began to refer to the game as “little war,” which is translated to “garosello” in Italian and “carosella.” This is how the word carousel is derived.

During Medieval times, carousels were used as a training device for knights in battle. In the 1600s, a Frenchmen designed a device for training purposes for young competitors for participation in the carousel. The device was a carved horse that was suspended by chains from two arms that were attached to a central pole. The competitors trained while the horse moved up and down to simulate actually riding a horse.

In the 1800s, European immigrants brought the artistry of the carousel with them to America. The first patented carousel, which was called the “flying horses,” was given in Brooklyn; however, there is evidence of merry-g0-rounds being present in the U.S. five years earlier in Manhattan.

Later in the 19th century, merry-go-rounds were powered by steam and built on wooden platforms. By the end of the 19th century, carousels were converted to electric power–and during this time, fair grounds were popular. However, during WWII, the carousel fell out of popularity due to the lack of labor and supplies to make them. Merry-go-rounds or carousels did make a comeback, but they were never as popular as they were prior. But merry-go-rounds will live forever, or at least as long as there are children.

For more information, see the International Independent Showmen’s Museum website, or use your DCPL card to check out Art of the Carousel by Charlotte Dinger.


Jul 17 2015

Greener than Envy

by Rebekah B

tiny-grassThe science investigating consciousness and intelligence in plants is a fascinating and rapidly developing field of study. The thinking that all intelligent life forms require a brain and “standard” nervous system is in the process of possibly being debunked. Vegans, beware: Cruelty-free living may, alas, be impossible! However, increasing awareness of all life forms does allow us to make better choices, gives us all an opportunity to be grateful, and to realize that to be alive is to cause some degree of harm to other beings. I do love plants very much, and I feel a great affinity with them. As an amateur gardener, I am frequently impressed by the survival strategies of plants, and how they sometimes compete with one another, and sometimes cooperate…not unlike us humans!

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, among other titles, published a highly informative article on the subject describing recent developments in plant science in the The New Yorker on December 23, 2013, called The Intelligent Plant.” I have read portions of The Secret Life of Plants, mentioned in the opening remarks of Mr. Pollan’s article. Like him, I was deeply intrigued by the experiments with plants and polygraphs conducted by former CIA polygraph expert Cleve Backster, involving events from distances of several hundred miles, in which plants were recorded registering a variety of responses to various thoughts and stimuli. Pollan pursues that the 1973 title compiled a “beguiling mashup of legitimate plant science, quack experiments, and mystical nature worship that captured the public imagination at a time when New Age thinking was seeping into the mainstream.” Here is a quote from the article:

“Backster and his collaborators went on to hook up polygraph machines to dozens of plants, including lettuces, onions, oranges, and bananas. He claimed that plants reacted to the thoughts (good or ill) of humans in close proximity and, in the case of humans familiar to them, over a great distance. In one experiment designed to test plant memory, Backster found that a plant that had witnessed the murder (by stomping) of another plant could pick out the killer from a lineup of six suspects, registering a surge of electrical activity when the murderer was brought before it. Backster’s plants also displayed a strong aversion to interspecies violence. Some had a stressful response when an egg was cracked in their presence, or when live shrimp were dropped into boiling water, an experiment that Backster wrote up for the International Journal of Parapsychology, in 1968.”


While The Secret Life of Plants intrigued a generation or more of minds and hearts willing to change the standard view of plants being immobile, senseless vegetable matter, Pollan claims that the romanticism of the book may have damaged the reception of more recent ventures by plant scientists to more thoroughly explore the cognitive abilities of plants through controlled experiments that can be replicated. Some scientists go even further, claiming self-censorship, fearing that serious scientific studies of plant cognition will be poorly received. Nonetheless, there are scientists who label themselves “plant neurobiologists” who are working to radically transform our perceptions of our chlorophyll-laden friends. Here is another quote from The Intelligent Plant,” where Pollan speaks of a 2006 article from the journal Trends in Plant Science:

The six authors—among them Eric D. Brenner, an American plant molecular biologist; Stefano Mancuso, an Italian plant physiologist; František Baluška, a Slovak cell biologist; and Elizabeth Van Volkenburgh, an American plant biologist—argued that the sophisticated behaviors observed in plants cannot at present be completely explained by familiar genetic and biochemical mechanisms. Plants are able to sense and optimally respond to so many environmental variables—light, water, gravity, temperature, soil structure, nutrients, toxins, microbes, herbivores, chemical signals from other plants—that there may exist some brainlike information-processing system to integrate the data and coördinate a plant’s behavioral response. The authors pointed out that electrical and chemical signalling systems have been identified in plants which are homologous to those found in the nervous systems of animals. They also noted that neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate have been found in plants, though their role remains unclear.”

Professor Mancuso

Michael Pollan actually traveled to Florence, Italy, to meet Stefano Mancuso (photo right), who passionately pursues and defends the concept that having a vertebrate-type nervous system and being mobile are not necessary requirements for intelligence. He further explains that because plants are basically stuck where they are and are frequently consumed, their “modular” structures allow them to lose up to 90% of their bodily structures without dying. Because plants are literally rooted to the ground, their survival depends upon their ability to be highly aware of their surroundings and to use various modes of perception to defend and perpetuate themselves. Some scientists claim that plants have as many as 15 to 20 senses to our five, or six, if you believe in intuition. The following is also from Pollan’s New Yorker article:

Plants have evolved between fifteen and twenty distinct senses, including analogues of our five: smell and taste (they sense and respond to chemicals in the air or on their bodies); sight (they react differently to various wavelengths of light as well as to shadow); touch (a vine or a root ‘knows’ when it encounters a solid object); and, it has been discovered, sound. In a recent experiment, Heidi Appel, a chemical ecologist at the University of Missouri, found that, when she played a recording of a caterpillar chomping a leaf for a plant that hadn’t been touched, the sound primed the plant’s genetic machinery to produce defense chemicals. Another experiment, done in Mancuso’s lab and not yet published, found that plant roots would seek out a buried pipe through which water was flowing even if the exterior of the pipe was dry, which suggested that plants somehow ‘hear’ the sound of flowing water.”

If anything, reading The New Yorker article will renew your sense of wonder and respect for the mostly-silent, green beings around us. By some estimates, plants make up over 99% of the Earth’s biomass. Let’s hope they are not plotting to use their smarts to replace the insignificant 1%, of which we are only a small part!

An additional book about plant intelligence and other interesting plant facts in the DCPL system:

The Secret Language of Life: How Animals and Plants Feel and Communicate by Brian J. Ford, 2000

Interesting links:

Press releases from the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology

The New Scientist: Smarty Plants (PDF document)

Public Radio International article: New Research on Plant Intelligence May Forever Change How You Think About Plants

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Jul 15 2015

Database Spotlight: eBooks on EBSCOhost

by Arthur G

I’m sure more than a few of you are familiar with the lovely storehouse of electronic literature that is OverDrive. Whether you’re perusing through digital equivalents of library hard-copy materials, or seeking the latest additions to the Library’s electronic bookshelves, our eLibrary is a treasure trove of fun and interesting reads for the technologically connected.

EBSCOHostBut did you know that our site plays host to another rather extensive eBook archive? EBSCOhost has a selection of over 27,000 eBooks available to choose from, and all can be found right on our Reference Databases page. Once you’re in, you can scan the highlighted picks, search the listed categories, or simply look up whatever you want. Navigating the page is a fairly hassle-free affair, and a few handy links grant access to the information titan that is GALILEO if you tire of browsing. Most of the books can be read right in your browser, without the need for a media console or management tool, though if you really want to bypass the joy of clicking the same arrow button 203 times, creating a free My EBSCOhost account is quick and painless, and lets you check out the full PDF for up to seven days.

Just a fair warning, though: Don’t expect to find the latest James Patterson or John Grisham. While there are fiction titles (including many classics), much of it is pretty heavy stuff–and the nonfiction covers everything from applications in quantum chemistry, to the state of feminist-based NGOs in Central Africa, to some things considerably more esoteric. The 7-day check out can be a bit of a bummer, but when you factor in the typical price tag for books of such density (FYI: they ain’t cheap) plus their ready-availability in your browser at any time, it’s hard to find much grounds for complaint.

So if you’re looking for a good, challenging read, show a little love to eBooks on EBSCOhost. Think of it as OverDrive’s stuffy, college-bound older brother–a little stiff and foreboding at first blush, but full of fascinating information if you’re willing to take the time to chat a bit.

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Jul 13 2015

Criminal History

by Hope L

echoesI got excited when my co-worker Camille wrote a review about the true crime book The Stranger She Loved.  True crime stories are some of my favorite, and now I have someone else at DCPL who may be sharing some interesting finds.

My new favorite true crime author is Jerry Bledsoe. His book Before He Wakes: A True Story of Money, Marriage and Murder is available through DCPL.  He has written about several true crimes from his home state of North Carolina, and his books are  filled with very detailed facts, which must take years of research to write.

I have read many of Ann Rule’s books, but my favorite of hers will probably always be The Stranger Beside Me, her true account of serial killer Ted Bundy. Rule discovered she had known Bundy years ago when they both worked at a crisis center.  Reading about Ted Bundy scared the daylights out of me!

Another book that terrified me (no doubt these books scared me so much because I was living alone when I was reading them) was Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders  by Vincent Bugliosi.

Ancareergirlsother book I recently ran across is Robert K. Tanenbaum’s Echoes of  My Soul,which is sending chills down my spine, but in a different way.  You see, it tells the story of  ‘The Career-Girls Murders’  in New York on August 28, 1963, which,  ironically, occurred on the day of  Martin Luther King’s  iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.  I say ironically because a black man named George Whitmore was bullied by police into confessing to the murders.  This case reminds me of some of the news stories that have been front and center in our country over the past couple of  years.





Jul 10 2015

Embracing the eggplant…er…I think

by Dea Anne M

For a number of years, in my twenties and beyond, I was a vegetarian. I was convinced that pursuing this path was right for me for a variety of reasons although my most compelling concerns were environmental. I actually still believe that limiting our consumption of animal products can be an effective way of living a little more lightly on our planet although I started eating meat again quite some time ago. Certainly the options are much broader now for those choose a vegetarian or vegan diet some or all of the time.  In fact, the opportunities for upscale vegetarian dining have never been better from Dirt Candy in New York City to Cafe Gratitude in Los Angeles to Millennium in San Francisco to Arpege in Paris (which isn’t vegetarian but features a very vegetable heavy menu).

Lately, I’ve felt a yearning to return, at least partially, to vegetarian dining but I don’t want to approach it in the same manner that I used to. For example, a vegan lunch or dinner back then would have consisted of a stir fry heavily embellished with nuts and tofu or maybe a pizza made with soy based cheese.  A vegetarian meal might be rice and beans with a thick garnish of cheese and maybe some sour cream for good measure. A lot of this, cheesy, nutty, soybeany heaviness had to do with a general anxiety, promoted especially by such counter culture “bibles” as Frances Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet and the original Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen,  that vegetarians must combine the “incomplete” proteins found in grains and legumes or consume dairy products in order to attain a healthy diet. This view has been widely discredited in recent years and current dietary wisdom holds that vegan and vegetarians alike share the same nutritional challenge faced by the majority of Americans namely – eating enough of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. I’ve always been a little surprised at the number of folks I’ve met who practice a vegetarian diet who don’t really like vegetables. To be honest, I was one myself. It has only been in recent years that I’ve truly begun to embrace the beauty and deliciousness of vegetables and fruits. Nowadays, an ideal vegetarian lunch for me is an iteration of the good old southern vegetable plate featuring field peas, sauteed kale with garlic, sliced tomatoes, and corn on the cob with maybe watermelon for dessert. Yum!

Are you interested in exploring vegetarian and/or vegan options in your diet? Maybe you are a practicing vegetarian who just needs some new mealtime ideas. Either way, DCPL has the resources to help.

I’ve mentioned Mark Bittman and his books in other posts but let me, again, vegetarianrecommend his How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. Long time vegetarians and beginners alike will find that this is one book that lives up to its title. From Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice to Ziti Baked with Goat Cheese and Olives, this volume is comprehensive plus and vegan options abound. This could be the only vegetarian cookbook that you’ll ever need.

Deborah Madison, who opened Greens, the San Francisco everyonefine dining destination in 1979, has updated her much loved, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone to incorporate more modern techniques and ingredients. The result is The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and boy is it a stunner. Not everything here is “quick and easy” – or cheap for that matter – but every recipe is positively sumptuous. Try the Tangerine Pudding Cake with Raspberry Coulis if you don’t believe me.

“Umami” is a term that gets thrown about in a lot of circles – including some of meatlessmine – but what does it really mean? Well, it is a Japanese word that roughly translates to “pleasant taste” and is meant to describe a certain savoriness in food that results from our taste receptors picking up a substance called glutamate. Asian fish sauce and steak are held up as prime examples of umami carrying foods but other foods are rich in umami as well including mushrooms and tomatoes. Dina Cheney’s Meatless All Day: Recipes for Inspired Vegetarian Meals is something a little different in vegetarian cookbooks. Cheney incorporates 45 “power ingredients” into her recipes to boost umami. Some of these include parmesan cheese, miso, and caramelized onions. Whether or not meat eaters will “never miss the meat” is debatable and the recipes are a bit heavy on cheese and eggs but overall this is a worthy addition to your vegetarian cookbook shelf.

cottageFinally, let me highlight two well-written and beautifully photographed cookbooks that will appeal to anyone – vegetarian or not. River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who is probably best known as Britain’s leading exponent of “nose to tail” eating but he is actually a champion of sustainable cuisine in general and these days declaims the viplatertues of a more plant based diet. Written in a comfortable, chatty style River Cottage Veg is just plain fun to read and the recipes are fantastic. Asparagus Pizza anyone? Mollie Katzen’s (she of the previously mentioned Moosewood Cookbook) latest offering is The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation, and it is a beauty. Katzen’s aim here is to “layer” flavors for a more sophisticated dish. Examples are Orange Rice and Black Beans and Kale and Grilled Bread Salad with Red Onions, Walnuts and Figs. Just reading about Farfalle and Rapini in Creamy Walnut Sauce makes me want to get in my own kitchen and cook!

Vegetables rule…although I have yet to find a recipe for eggplant that I’ve really been satisfied with. How about you? Are you a vegetarian or interested in exploring those options? What are some of your favored cookbooks? Let me know and if you happen to have a good eggplant recipe to send my way, please feel free.


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Jul 3 2015

Who Stole My Identity?

by Camille B

Identity theft photo 2We’ve probably all heard these words before. “I’m sorry, your card has been declined.” Whether at a restaurant, department store, or at the supermarket buying groceries, the feeling of panic and confusion immediately sets in and our first thought is there has to be some mistake.

And sometimes there is, sometimes the problem is easily fixed right there and then. You’ve somehow slid the wrong card, there was a problem with the credit card machine, or you simply didn’t have enough funds in your account to cover the transaction at that time.

But what if it wasn’t that simple? What if the problem was none of the above? And, after further investigation, you discover that someone has tampered with your account and your personal information has now been compromised. You find out that your name, date of birth, Social Security number–all of it–is now in the hands of a thief. So the nightmare begins.

My decision to take a closer look at identity theft and its aftermath came after a close friend of mine recently had one of her personal checks cashed by a total stranger–and for quite a tidy sum at that. The bold thief did not use a blank check as one might suppose, but rather one that had already been signed by her and made out to one of her creditors. The check was altered to change the name of the payee and dollar amount. The process for her, of having to file a criminal report and getting the matter resolved with the bank, proved to be a long and arduous one. It was two whole months before she finally got the money back.

She is not alone in her experience. Identity theft happens every day, all around us, to people of all walks of life regardless of their age, color, sex or race–and we all like to think it won’t happen to us, until it does. As its name suggests, identity theft can leave you literally having to go to lengths to prove you really are who you say you are, all because someone else is out there pretending to be you.

I mean, imagine someone calling you up and telling you that you’ve accumulated thousands of dollars worth of debt after someone else fraudulently used your credit card to make unauthorized purchases, or being pulled over in a traffic stop only to find out that you have not one but several unpaid tickets–or worse, a warrant out for your arrest–all because someone used your identity to obtain a driver’s license.

And the longer you take to figure out what’s happening, the more devastating it can be, as was the case with one victim I heard about in my research. When he finally did make the discovery, it was several months later and the damage to his credit was brutal.

You might be reading this and thinking to yourself, “Well gee, I already knew all of that,” which is how I felt until it hit so close to home and I had to scratch my head and realize this could have easily been me.

When it’s just a random, faceless person out there we hear about in the news, sure we empathize, but the case feels so remote and far removed from us that after a while we become complacent, and sometimes even careless, regarding our own day-to-day affairs. So we should be more alert. Identity theft does not announce itself or give us a head start to prepare for its onslaught, nor can we treat it like we might jury duty–and hope “we won’t get picked.” Identity theft is a problem we should take proactive measures against.

And even though we cannot make ourselves one hundred percent foolproof from becoming victims (I’ve checked, there’s no vaccine), we can take preventative measures to secure ourselves and minimize the risk of theft. To me, some of it is just good old common sense and some of it may seem a bit extreme–but as the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The following are just a few safety measures we can take; it only scratches the surface I know, but it’s a good place to start in being a bit more mindful of our overall financial safety.

  • Invest in a good shredder, preferably one that cross-shreds, since truly determined thieves have nothing but time on their hands and would not be deterred by a few hundred strips of paper. Shred important financial statements including medical ones. If it’s something a thief can use against you, shred it.
  • Do not dispose of important paperwork away from home.
  • Be careful about putting bills with checks in the mailbox. This was okay years ago, but nowadays not so much. If a thief gets to that mailbox ahead of the mail carrier, there goes some very valuable information to use to commit fraud. Instead, invest in a mailbox that you can lock with a key–this might be a better option.
  • Take your Social Security card out of your purse or wallet and put it in a secure place along with all of your other personal documents. You do not need to be walking around with your Social Security card all day. Don’t make it easy for thieves to find your Social Security number and unleash a world of hurt, using your number to apply for credit, gain employment, open bank accounts, and even file taxes. Idnetity Theft Image 3
  • Reduce the amount of active credit cards you have. More cards mean more statements coming in and more bills going out. With two cards or less, it’s easier to keep track of activity and spot inconsistencies.
  • Always keep your checkbook in a secure place. Never leave it in the car while you run errands, on your desk at work, or any place where it can fall into the wrong hands. Even boxes of blank checks should be kept safe and out of sight.
  • Beware of phishing. Identity thieves are out there surfing the internet, “phishing” to get innocent victims like you and me to give out our personal information, using phony websites that look oh-so-real, and providing links for us to click on to take us to even darker places where they can try and pry the information from us. Invest in an antivirus program or a firewall that makes it difficult for hackers to access personal information on your computer.
  • Place a “Fraud Alert” with the major credit reporting agencies so you can be alerted when a request is made for credit using your name and information–this makes lenders and creditors go the extra mile before extending credit in your name.
  • Secure PIN numbers and passwords, and avoid using numbers that might be easy or obvious. A thief can unlock all types of information connected to your account using your password, so make it harder to decipher by using a combination of letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Monitor your financial accounts regularly. Nowadays you don’t have to wait for a monthly statement to come in the mail, you can check your account online–daily.

The Federal Trade Commission website is a good source of information on how to avoid identity theft and what to do if it happens to you. And, DCPL has books of interest too.

Identity Theft by Rachael Hanel

Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan by Frank W. Abagnale

The Con: How Scams Work, Why You’re Vulnerable, and How to Protect Yourself by James Munton and Jelita McLeod