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

May 2016

May 27 2016

Consider the Lawn

by Dea Anne M

I spent a number of what you might call my “formative years” in Orlando, Florida and most of those in a vast (or what seems vast in memory) housing development called Conway Estates. All of the houses were single family, most followed the sprawling ranch-type silhouette and all were surrounded with lush, velvety lawns. My father, who wasn’t the most enthusiastic person in the world regarding yard work, did his part to keep our lawn up to the neighborhood standards, but he certainly didn’t do more than that. I don’t know that there was actually some sort of covenant regarding lawn upkeep in the neighborhood, but I do know that we were surrounded everywhere by identical swaths of emerald – weedless, wide open carpeting ideal for croquet or just impromptu gymnastics. As a kid, I thought it was pretty perfect. Of course, I wasn’t the one taking care of it. These days lets just say that I have a lawn and maybe leave it at that.

According to Ted Steinberg in American Green: the obsessive quest for the perfect lawn, there’s an estimatedgreen twenty-five to forty million acres of turf in the United States (this was in 2006) on which is spent about $40 billion a year. Of course, some of this grass is being used for golf courses or athletic fields but it still seems safe to say that a lot of Americans just love their lawns. Indeed, for many of my father’s generation and before a beautiful lawn has often been a badge of success…of having “made it” and for good reason. This thing that we call a “lawn”  seems to have begun appearing on the estates of British aristocrats and quite naturally required more than a fair amount of hired labor to maintain. It’s easy to imagine that this verdant symbol of wealth and ease of living eventually migrated to this country as a highly desirable goal, especially once the suburban lifestyle became thoroughly entrenched and, supposedly, erased once and for all differences of class and ethnic origin. Ironically, the vast majority of the grass species that we cultivate as lawns in this country originated elsewhere – as did most of the people who live here now.

Now you may be solidly pro-lawn or very much against them or have no real opinion either way. While I firmly believe in the personal freedom of the individual and that we must each decide for ourselves what goals are worth pursuing, I do know that when my family finally moved to the country the summer I entered high school – and into a house surrounded by woods left emphatically unlandscaped – my father declared that “I never want to mow another lawn!” and as far as I know he never did.

These days though I still admire a beautifully manicured lawn, I tend to appreciate a clever or aesthetically pleasing combination of varied elements more than I do a large, well-regulated stretch of grass. In fact, most of my schemes for my own yard currently seem to currently involve having less of the grass and more of everything else. And a large part of that “everything else” includes fruits and vegetables. That’s one reason that I found this recent story from the NPR website about the Fleet Farming project  so interesting and, given the number and content of the comments, I’m not the only one. I know that not everyone will agree with me, but I just love the idea of giving over some of the yard to edibles. Of course, the fact that a team of volunteers puts in and maintains these gardens no doubt makes it much easier for these homeowners to participate in the project since vegetable gardening can represent a significant expense of money and time. Of course, I think what most amuses me about the article is that this successful project originated, and is expanding, in Orlando, Florida which will forever remain in my memory as “The Land of the Lawn.”

As readers of this blog may know, I’ve maintained my own vegetable garden for several years, but more and more I’m trying to think of ways to incorporate edible plants into the existing landscape in a pleasing way. If you think you’d like to do the same, allow me to recommend these excellent resources from DCPL.

foodscapingWith its beautiful photographs and lush, poetic descriptions, Ivette Soler’s Edible Front Yard: the mow-less, grow-more plan for a beautiful, bountiful garden is definitely a great source for inspiration. No less inspirational but perhaps a bit more focused on the practical aspects of edible gardening is Foodscaping: practical and innovative ways to create an edible landscape by Charlie Nardozzi. For a more nuts and bolts approach, try Barbara Pleasant’s Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 no-fail plans for small organic gardens. While most of these terrific plans focus on the classic backyard vegetable garden, Pleasant includes plans for a Bountiful Border and a Front Yard Food Supply garden either of which look as though it would fit in beautifully to the more publicly visible areas of your yard. I especially appreciate that many of Pleasant’s plans are broken down to be installed over the course of three or four years so that you don’t feel as though you have to accomplish everything all at once.

Maybe you like your lawn just as it is or you don’t have one. If you have more limited space to grow, say a balcony, walldeck or windowsill – or you just appreciate (as do I) the look of containers check out Edward C. Smith’s The Vegetable Container Gardener’s Bible: how to grow a bounty of food in pots, tubs and other containers. And if the only space for your gardening is…well…up then I would urge you to take a look at the gorgeous and practical book Grow a Living Wall: create vertical gardens with a purpose by Shawna Coronado.

What’s your opinion on lawns? Would you choose a lawn over a garden or do you want both?



May 25 2016

Are You a Die Hard Fan Like Me?

by Jencey G

How many of you were excited last December when the new Star StarWars 1Wars film The Force Awakens opened in theaters?  Are you feeling the blues now waiting for the next Star Wars film to be released?  Did you know that we have much to offer at DCPL with Star Wars movies, books, and more?

Star Wars Allegiance by Timothy Zahn

Star Wars Art: Visions by George Lucas and JW Rinzler

Star Wars, Attack of the Clones: Incredible Cross Sections by Curtis Saxton

Star Wars, Attack of the Clones: Visual Dictionary by David West Reynolds

Star Wars, Blast Off A Doring Kindersley Reader

Star Wars, Cloak of Deception by James Luceno

Star Wars, Complete Cross Sections by David West Reynolds

StarWarsAftermathThese books cover information about all of the movies except The Force Awakens.  With these titles, you have a chance to explore other possibilities and go on further adventures with your favorite characters.  I remember after seeing the The Force Awakens feeling withdrawal because I wanted to see more and learn more about these characters.  I, like everyone else, will be marking my calendar until the next film is released.

I first learned about Star Wars when I was a little kid and my father took me to see the original movies.  For me, they were like fairy tales with a handsome prince or scoundrel, if you like Han Solo.  The princess of course is Leia.  Then you have the Queen Amidala who is rescued by the Jedi warrior Anakin Skywalker.

So happy reading! And may the Force be with you!


May 16 2016

1,000 Books and Mrs. Kimbrall

by Hope L

1000books_1DeKalb County Public Library and the DeKalb Library Foundation have launched the wonderful  1000 Books Before Kindergarten program and it has made me think that  I’d like to focus on reading more myself.

I wonder if I could launch my own campaign, say, A 1000 Books Before I Retire, or A 1000 Books I Really Should Have Read While in School, or even A 1000 Books I Shall Read Before I Go to the Big Library Upstairs.

When I think of the earliest books I enjoyed, I think of the Dick and Jane and Spot books, and of course, Dr. Seuss and Curious George. These books bring back memories of the smell of paste and working with construction paper, painting pictures and all the fun stuff we did in kindergarten.  Prior to that I don’t remember much except for digging a deep hole outside by my dollhouse with a spoon from the kitchen drawer while Mom would hang up the laundry.

I don’t believe anything too highbrow came through our household at that time, probably the lone classics being my brothers’ copy of  “The Last of the Mohicans,” or “Treasure Island,” which of course were way above my level of reading.  My parents used to read their paperback novels in bed while we kids watched TV.

And so it was with a pinch of luck later on that I was allowed to select a title  from my fifth grade teacher’s collection of paperbacks, which she invited us all to do as she was leaving after that year.

Mrs. Clarissa Kimbrall was retiring.

Grand Canyon School’s elementary students’ greatest fear was the mere presence of Mrs. Kimbrall.  At some 5’5″ tall, with her stern wardrobe of a floral dress, light pastel sweater, hose and military-cum-old lady shoes, her intimidating stature struck terror in even the wildest or toughest juvenile delinquent or goody-two-shoes alike.  Everyone in our elementary school got a knot in the pit of their stomachs when they thought about Mrs. Kimbrall waiting for them when they, too, finally reached the fifth grade.

We were so … um … fortunate to be blessed to be the final class to have Mrs. Clarissa Kimbrall at Grand Canyon School, in Grand Canyon, Arizona.

But along with everybody else, I stayed awake nights dreading the next day with Mrs. Kimbrall.  It was when worry was formally born in my psyche.  But we all lived to tell the story.

When somebody would have a birthday Mrs. Kimbrall would break out her infamous raisin cupcakes with pink frosting that were tough as a cheap steak. But we politely ate and smiled, for to leave that ‘treat’ (read: rock)  uneaten – that which the old woman would bake once a year (it might’ve been years before!) and would store in her freezer to bring every birthday – would be to face the wrath of Clarissa Kimbrall.

One never knew what the day would bring:  would Rusty Kemper fall asleep during reading?  Would Mrs. Kimbrall herself nod off whilst reading aloud to us from “The Hardy Boys’ Mysteries,” her pinky finger gently resting at the side of her nostril just so?  Would the class giggle and act up and awaken Mrs. Kimbrall, who would then unleash her wrath upon everyone?

But besides the gifts of respect, awe and terror, Mrs. Kimbrall gave me my first book.  Sure, I had books that were hand-me-downs from my three older brothers, and I read their “Boys’ Life” magazines, but this book that I selected from Mrs. Kimbrall’s large collection was my own personal book, my first.

And the book I chose was … “The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek,” by Evelyn Sibley Lampman.  I shall never forget it … or Mrs. Kimbrall and her raisin cupcakes.


These days, I seem to prefer pursuits that continue to teach me something over the course of time and gardening has certainly been one of those. I’ve been a serious vegetable gardener for close to ten years now, and I think that I’ve learned something significant and new during each growing season. Of course, gardeners used to learn primarily by living in families and  communities where other people had gardened as well and were able to share the deep knowledge that comes from long experience with a particular land and climate. I haven’t had that in my life, so I’ve had to seek out my own gardening community through books and the internet.

A problem I have found in reading about gardening is regional bias. For whatever reason, many American gardening experts have historically focused on the Northeastern part of the country and, to a latter degree, the Pacific Northwest. On the surface, it’s easy to see why this should be so. There is, I think, a popular perception that the mild winters and ample year-round sunlight we enjoy in the Southeast render gardening completely problem-free. You’ve only to try your hand at growing English peas or cauliflower to understand that this is hardly the case. Advice, useful to many but not to me, abounds. “Wait to plant until the soil can be worked easily.” Well, around here the soil can be worked all year round, so when do I plant?

Some statements just flat-out don’t apply to this part of the country at all. “In August, an absolute bumper crop of tomatoes will start rolling in. You’ll barely be able to keep up with the abundant harvest. Talk about seeing red!” While I’m sure that’s true in many places, in my zip code the heat in August can be almost unbearable and mytimber tomatoes tend to shut down and wait it out. In August, my primary tomato concern is keeping the plants from dropping too many blossoms so that they’ll start producing again when the weather finally cools down.

Growing lettuce in July? Forget it! I am an inveterate lover of salads as well as all things tomato, so you can imagine my elation when I discovered The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast by Ira Wallace. If you too are a Southern vegetable gardener, I cannot recommend this book enough. The book addresses general gardening concerns such as soil quality and watering methods (and quite completely too, I might add) then moves on to provide an extraordinarily useful guide to what you should be doing, planting and harvesting every month of the year. It turns out that even lettuce can be grown through the summer with some thoughtful techniques (refrigerating seeds, cooling the soil with cardboard and planting in the shade of larger plants are some of these). The final section of the book addresses individual vegetables and makes recommendations about which tastevarieties do particularly well here. Plus, rather than lumping “the South” into one homogeneous mass, Wallace makes distinctions between the Upper South and the Lower South. This is a good thing because the growing conditions in a place like Cucumber, West Virginia are bound to be very different from those experienced in Bayou Cane, Louisiana. Ira Wallace is a Master Gardener in Virginia and helps to run the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. She is well known in the seed saving community and her book includes useful guidance on how to save your own vegetable seeds.

Seed saving in itself is a fascinating subject which carries a great deal of history. Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste: heirloom seed savers in Appalachia by Bill Best is  an absorbing history of Southern Appalachian heirloom varieties of beans, corn and tomatoes and of the people who have cherished and preserved them through time. I find the the names alone – Greasy Pod Pole Bean, Bloody Butcher Dent Corn, Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter Tomato – enchanting.

Of course, if your vegetable gardening goes well (or your vegetable shopping for that matter), you’ll have a lot of produce to cook up. Here are a few resources available from DCPL that can help you do just that.fork

Local (ish) chef, Hugh Acheson is known for his award-winning restaurants in Athens, Atlanta and Savannah as well as his cookbooks.  His latest offering,  The Broad Fork: recipes for the wide world of vegetables and fruits is full of seasonally appropriate ideas for using garden bounty any time of year. Not only will you find recipes incorporating the South’s beloved tomatoes and peaches, you’ll also find some great ideas for using veggies that may be less familiar such as kohlrabi and ramps.

Steven Satterfield is chef at Atlanta’s celebrated Miller Union and has been called a “vegetable shaman” by no less an authority than The New York TimesRoot to Leaf: a southern chef cooks through the seasons is Satterfield’s homage to the vegetables that he clearly loves. The excellent text works beautifully with the stunning photographs and the recipes appear to be delicious without being overly fussy. Check out this Miller Union vegetable plate as featured in a Southern Living magazine a few summers back.

masteringMastering the Art of Southern Vegetables by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart deals with vegetables and only vegetables and the southern spin here is undeniable. Dupree and Graubart, James Beard Award winners and long time collaborators,  have organized their book by vegetable rather than season – a plus on those days in the kitchen when you’re faced with an acorn squash or a dozen zucchini. In any case, you have to figure that any cookbook featuring lady peas (my personal favorite) along with nine recipes for okra and four for sweet potatoes must mean serious Southern cooking business.

How about you? Do you have a favorite southern vegetable? Are you thinking about a garden of your own?


May 12 2016

The Book of Joan

by Hope L


It will soon be two years since Joan Rivers passed away, and her daughter has written a touching, sarcastic, book about her mother:  “The Book of Joan – Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation,” by Melissa Rivers.

Anyone who loved Joan Rivers’ humor will love this book.  Interspersed within the reflections are both jokes used by the comedienne in her act over the years and new ones the younger Ms. Rivers herself includes; “The Book of Joan,” by Melissa Rivers is available at DCPL, as are titles by the comedienne herself:

“Still Talking,” by Joan Rivers with Richard Meryman

“Bouncing Back : I’ve Survived Everything– and I Mean Everything– and You Can Too!” by Joan Rivers with Ralph Schoenstein.

“Don’t Count the Candles – Just Keep the Fire Lit,” by Joan Rivers

“I Hate Everything – Starting with Me,” by Joan Rivers

“Diary of a Mad Diva,” by Joan Rivers

“Joan Rivers:  A Piece of Work,”  by Ricki Stern, DVD recording


May 10 2016

The Golden Years

by Camille B

The Golden Years Photo 1

How do you plan on spending your retirement years? Do you see yourself sitting on a beach somewhere in Honolulu or the Bahamas sipping on coconuts with your spouse by your side? Or perhaps selling your home and moving to Florida to soak up the sunshine? Or maybe you just plan on taking it easy and spending more time with your kids and grandkids?

Of all the scenarios you imagine however, I don’t believe that any of them should involve just wiling your time away, waiting for something exciting to happen.

What about all those years of hard work? After putting your kids through college, saving in spite of  student loans, car loans and mortgages, punching that time card every day, rain or shine. It would surely be a shame to just rest on your laurels wondering what more there is.

I know there are some people who retire way more comfortably than others do. However, I honestly don’t believe that you have to be filthy rich or rolling in dough to have a happy retirement.

Remember all those little things you used to say to  family and friends while you were still working? “I can’t wait for the day when I don’t have to get up early and come to work.” or “It would be so nice to work only if I wanted to and not because I had to.” Remember those words? Remember that longing? But research has shown that the feeling of disillusionment is understandable and quite common for many newly retired people.

According to an article in Retire HappyAfter the first few weeks or months, it is very common for retirees to become discontented and even depressed. This is usually because they feel that their life does not have a purpose any more. There is a sense of belonging that comes with having a job and if you were at your job for a long time, the chances are that you were in a position where a lot of people “needed” you on a daily basis.”

First of all, realize that if you do sometimes feel this way it’s not uncommon. The goal is not to stay there. You’ve waited too long and worked too hard to get to this next phase in your life, so push through those feelings. Try new things, meet new people, get out there.

As I did a little exploring, I realized there was an endless array of activities or experiences out there that people of retirement age were willing to try.  Activities like growing your own food, kayaking, learning a new language, tap dancing, computer classes, or wine tasting. Retirement might allow you to get in touch with your creative side through writing, painting, blogging, or learning to play an instrument. All, on your own time schedule of course. You get to set the pace. You get to be in control of your daily life.

Seniors Line Dancing

Senior Volunteer








As one retiree said,”I don’t necessarily need excitement; I need newness.” And she’s right. What would be the point of doing the same things you did everyday while you were still working? So sit down and remember those things you said you were going to do when you retired; write them down. These were the things you were looking forward to, the things you said would make you happy once you had the free time, so start there and then move forward. The Golden Years are precious, don’t waste them.

The month of May, has been designated Older Americans Month and the DeKalb County Public Library has joined in the celebration by offering many interesting and fun activities at our various branches throughout the County such as: Line Dancing;  Senior Self-Defense; Zumba Gold;  Chair and Mat Yoga; Punch and Paint and many other fun events that you can find listed on our website. And don’t forget our annual senior shin-dig held at the Decatur Library. This year the theme is Viva La Vida @ DCPL, and all you need to participate is your library card.

Books at DCPL

Looking forward: an optimist’s guide to retirement– Ellen Freudenheim

Retire Inspired: it’s not an age, it’s a financial number– Chris Hogan with foreword by Dave Ramsey

What color is your parachute? for retirement:planning now for the life you want– Richard N Bolles/John Nelson

Reclaim your nest egg: take control of your financial future-Ken Kamen

The Everything retirement planning book -Judith B Harrington and Stanley J Steinberg

Social security, Medicare & government pensions: get the most out of your retirement & medical benefits

-Joseph L Matthews

{ 1 comment }

May 9 2016

So You Want to Write a Book!

by Jencey G

How many of you have on your bucket list publishing a prize winning book? Where do you begin? What are your next steps?  How do you start a manuscript and see it through to the end that includes publication?  What makes for good plot and character development? Or just a good story?

The library can help.  One way to do this is to visit the experts.  You can attend programs at Georgia Center for the Book.  There is usually at least one program each week with many different authors and genres represented.  There almost always is a question and answer session at the end of the author’s talk for those with writing questions.

The next option would be to attend a writer’s group program at one of our many branches.  These groups can provide accountability and or work on skills that help progress your writing.  There are groups that have met at our locations at Wesley Chapel- William C. Brown, Stonecrest, Clarkston, Dunwoody, among others.  Some branches have speakers that come and focus on a certain skill in writing.  We had a program at Clarkston about the psychological effects of characters within your writing. Dunwoody has had a gentleman who comes and helps you work on the tools of writing.

There are many books that are perfect to help you wiJanet Evanovichth your writing and are also available on audiobook.   They may also be available in e-content as well. Your favorite authors get asked questions all the time about writing.  Janet Evanovich is one of those authors who has written a book about her writing process and the publishing field.  You can find, How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author at DCPL. I found it to be insightful.  One of the most recommended is Stephen King On Writing, A Memoir of Craft.  There are books available that focus on plot, character development, or how to read as a writer.

Please visit the catalog and see what can make writing your manuscript happen.  Please also visit the events page on the DeKalb Library website.  Maybe I will see you at a Georgia Center for the Book program!


May 2 2016

The Hard Way…But Worth It

by Dea Anne M

Gardening. Learning to sew. Making jam and pickles. I do enjoy a project, and I recently decided that I would learn how to make sourdough bread. I’ve been baking bread for a long time now but sourdough has always seemed an entirely different realm – the “wild frontier” of bread baking in more ways than one.

If you don’t know already (and I had to do quite a bit of reading to find out myself) sourdough is generally not leavened with commercial yeast. Instead, most sourdough involves a loose mixture of flour and water or a “starter” which begins its potentially long existence by being allowed to sit and ferment in order to capture and develop the wild yeasts that exist in the flour and in the air around it.

“Developing” is the tricky part though. Consensus doesn’t seem to exist on how long the process actually takes. One simply feeds and stirs and brews and smells the starter until it’s “ready” …but what does this mean? A primed starter is supposed to have “a few bubbles” or “some bubbles.” Come on, already, how many bubbles are we talking about?

A spoonful of a starter that is ready is supposed to “bob gently in a cup of room temperature water.” Well, what if your spoonful looks and smells ready (at least to one’s own untutored eye) but plummets to the bottom of the cup like a bag of sand? Was the water too warm? Too cold? Was the spoon of starter too full? Not full enough?  Is the moon in the wrong phase right now thus making any alternative baking project a vain and laughable endeavor? Maybe sourdough never blooms correctly in an election year…a fact that everyone else knows, and I would have too, if I’d only been paying close enough attention. Woe is me.

I suppose that’s what I get for choosing to grow my own starter instead of purchasing one or obtaining some from an acquaintance. The latter would have been the sensible course of action, but I suppose there’s a big part of me that often wants to do things the hard way. In any case, after about a week and a half, I got tired of fiddling with and poking at my starter and decided to just dive in. Ready or not…I would bake some bread! And…it worked! Much to my astonishment, my maiden loaf of sourdough rose high and proud, the crumb was well-textured and the crust crispy. It tasted great…if I do say so myself. Call it beginner’s luck (I know I do), but I have more hope now for the possible success of future sourdough adventures. What I also have is a starter that should remain happy and active as long as I take care of it. This means keeping it from getting too cold or too hot and keeping it fed on a regular basis. It’s sort of like living with a pet…albeit one that you grew yourself…but I don’t mind as long as I can keep making tasty bread.

According to this story that NPR ran in 2006, sourdough is quite possibly the oldest form of leavened bread, well- known to the ancient Egyptian, and as is probably true of other foods that we find yummy, such as yogurt, cheese and Toll House chocolate chip cookies, was discovered by accident. Of course, the images that come to my mind when I think of sourdough are wagon trains full of settlers heading for the American West or would-be millionaires flooding the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush – folks who traveled far away from places where commercial baking powder and yeast were available. There are stories, in fact, of miners sleeping with their sourdough starters during the Alaskan winters in order to keep the precious mixtures from freezing.

Do you think you’d like to give this interesting form of baking a try? If so, I recommend the following resources from DCPL.

San Francisco has long been considered the American epicenter of sourdough and one of the acknowledged masterstartine is Chad Robertson who co-owns Tartine Bakery in the heart of the Mission District. Robertson’s  Tartine Bread will provide you with a little bit of San Francisco in your own kitchen. You won’t find an encyclopedic collection of recipes here – Robertson’s primary concern is conveying technique – but you will discover how to make really terrific bread and pick up a few ideas on what to with it on the way.

Another well-regarded master of bread is Lionel Vatinet. Vatinet is a founding instructor of the San Francisco Baking passionInstitute and now co-owns La Farm Bakery in Cary, North Carolina. Vatinet’s bakery (which is also a restaurant) produces bread baked according to traditional methods that incorporate slow, careful development. The sourdough “boule” possess an aura almost mystical in the enthusiasm it inspires and, at five pounds, the loaf boasts heroic proportions. A Passion for Bread shares Vatinet’s exceptional body of knowledge with the home baker. Learning to bake good bread can be frustrating and exhilarating in equal degree. This excellent book is like having a bread professor at your elbow guiding you every step of the way. I highly recommend it.

I’ll repeat at this point that sourdough is a fermented substance but don’t let that fact give you pause. Let me assure fermentedyou that Charlotte Pike’s beautiful book Fermented will ease any qualms that you might harbor. Pike is a cooking instructor and food writer in the United Kingdom and she knows her ferments. Sourdough baking is one chapter in a book that encompasses fermented fruit and vegetables like sauerkraut and dairy products like yogurt and labneh, but Pike’s instructions are excellent and those sourdough recipes include much more than bread. I, for one, can’t wait to bake the Sourdough Chocolate Cake.

Sourdough baking is, for me, turning out to be a pursuit much like gardening has been – a fascinating and sometimes frustrating process in which the journey has been worth the trip. If you decide to take your own little jaunt…well, happy baking..and let me know how it goes!