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Jan 23 2012

On the Record

by Greg H

One really great thing about working in a public library is that there seems to always be something on the shelves that you haven’t seen before.  My most recent discovery is Record Store Days by Gary Calamar and Phil Gallo.  Their book traces the history of the record store and its importance as a place where people could interact and share their love and knowledge of music.  For some people this became a hobby and inspired a life-long passion; for others, like Peter Buck of REM,  it was a stepping stone to their own careers in music.

I feel a little jealous as I read through this book.  My hometown did not feature a full service record store, let alone one with listening booths.   We bought our 45s at the G.C. Murphy in town or, sometimes,  Troutman’s department store.  These stores usually had what we were able to hear on the local AM radio stations. I don’t remember wondering about what other music might have been out there.  We never encountered the kinds of knowledgeable employees or fellow music fans who could help inform our choices.  These are the people that Calamar and Gallo celebrate.

Record Store Days is loaded with anecdotes, quotes and wonderful pictures of music stores and fans from the past 100 years.  It also includes a compilation of the best record stores nationwide according to the major music publications.  This book wouldn’t be so nostalgic, however,  if it wasn’t also a cautionary tale. Independent music stores like those found in this delightful retrospective are an endangered commodity in these days of downloading digitally. Ziggy Marley is quoted as saying “Record stores keep the human social contact alive, it brings people together. ” With that in mind, read Record Store Days, but then visit your friendly neighborhood record shop.  It’s nice to know that they’re still out there.


Mar 21 2011

Thank you Mr. Applegate

by Patricia D

We spent part of January, the part where we were actually able to come to work instead of  holing up in our snow covered homes, quietly passing the magazine around the office, exclaiming in hushed tones during breaks and lunch over the full color photos and the enticing captions.  It was the Burpee seed catalog and I fall for its charms every year.  I can also be felled by the catalogs from Jackson and Perkins and the McMurray Hatchery catalog (that is a whole other post) but every year Burpee sets me daydreaming about lush rows of Snappy Sugar Peas, Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Heatwave Blend Lettuce and Camouflage Hybrid (the better to hide it in your unsuspecting coworker’s bag) zucchini.  Of course bountiful mounds of various heirloom tomatoes go without saying.

I was lucky enough to learn how to garden in a 10 x 10 foot space at Kingwood Center, where the Master Gardener patiently taught us how to companion plant and weed, when to harvest and which insects to leave alone.  It was a wonderful program and probably one of the best parts of my education.  I’m not going to lie to you,  I hated taking care of the garden on blistering July mornings, but  I have wonderful memories of  taking a knife and a salt shaker out as the day cooled to the smoky blues of dusk.  Standing barefoot in the dirt,  grazing on sun warmed tomatoes,  fuzzy to the tongue snap beans and baby carrots—not those bagged, milled baby carrots we’ve all come to love, but small, intensely flavored carrots that would have been huge and sweet if only they’d been left to finish the year—was the best part of summer.

These days I still dream of warm, rich, juicy tomatoes drizzled with fruity olive oil and fresh mozzarella and a few basil leaves,  but I gave up on everything else years ago.  A wacky work schedule and too many drought ridden summers made successful gardening too much effort.  Now though, I’m honor bound to pass along what Mr. Applegate so patiently taught me on those Saturday mornings all those years ago.  At my house we’ve been talking about Sunflower Houses (sunflowers planted with runner beans to make a bio-degradable, child sized hideaway),  Pizza Gardens (basil, tomatoes and peppers) and pumpkins, because I think every child should get to grow pumpkins.  Also, what’s a summer morning without a joyous riot of Heavenly Blue Morning Glories, or a summer evening without the heady fragrance of roses and jasmine?

For the Pizza Garden and the Sunflower House look in Roots, shoots, buckets and boots by Sharon Lovejoy.  Other books you may want to use with children are The garden that we grew by Joan Holub and Grow it, cook it edited by Deborah Lock.  If you’re just learning the basics of gardening Fresh food from small spaces by R.J. Ruppenthal,  All new square foot gardening by Mel Bartholomew and Don Hastings’  month-by-month gardening in the South are hugely helpful.

Now, go forth and garden!





Mar 7 2011

Oh, I would never eat there. . .

by Patricia D

I spent years working in the food service industry and the one thing that never failed to put a kitchen into a tizzy was a visit from the health inspector.  I was generally lucky enough to work in places where the managers cared about hand washing, keeping foods at a proper temperature, keeping out the vermin—you know, the little things.  I’ll never forget the epic battle Dishwasher Dude waged in one kitchen to get the ancient equipment, affectionately referred to as Scum Queen, up to the right temperature.  Apparently she needed a lot of sweet talk and just the right amount of soap to reach the magic number of 160 degrees.  Dude finally managed it while the inspector was watching, but we were all holding our breaths.  Of course, the kitchen lost a perfect score anyway because there was a cracked tile in the salad prep area.  Still, a 98 isn’t the end of the world.  That would be anything below 80.

I can live with just about anything above a 92 but below that, it gets dicey.  Down into the 80s is someone not washing his hands, food prep happening too close to cleaning materials or chicken thawing in the cooler over a vat of salad greens.  I don’t even want to think about what goes on below 80.   I look for those lovely yellow inspection reports before I order anything and I’ve been known to walk out of a place after finding a low score.  This has made for some on the fly dining choices at times but now I can plan better because the DeKalb County Board of Health now has the reports available on-line.  Take a peek for yourself and choose “Restaurant and Facility Inspection Scores” from the menu on the left side of the screen.  It’s a little fun, a little terrifying and goes a long way to helping me relax about the food I order.


Feb 2 2011

Book Sale, Book Sale, Book Sale

by Lesley B

We are always looking for the book it is necessary to read next – Saul Bellow

There’s never been a better time than this weekend to find that next book.  On Saturday, February 5, the Friends of Decatur Library have their annual Winter Book Sale.  They’ll have thousands of great books for you on the ground floor of the Decatur Library from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

But wait—there’s more. The Friends of Toco Hill – Avis G. Williams Library Book Sale starts Friday, February 4 at 1 p.m.  (Join the Toco Hill Friends that morning and you can get in on the Friends-only preview from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ) They’ve got so many books that the sale continues on Saturday, February 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

And even though it’s not a library sale,  I want you to know that Briarlake Elementary is also hosting a book sale on Friday, February 4 and Saturday, February 5.

3 book sales in one weekend! I picture many happy readers,  driving up and down Clairmont with their new treasures piled in the back seat.  The prices are right, the causes are good—take a friend and find your next book(s).


Dec 29 2010

Why We Borrow

by Dea Anne M

One of my favorite non-fiction titles is Paco Underhill‘s Why We Buy: the science of shopping.  As someone who spent a number of years working in bookstores,  I have always been interested in what might be called the“science of shopping,” and Underhill’s book does a great job, I think, in illuminating the many ways, some quite unexpected,  in which our shopping experience can be, and is, manipulated to get us not only to spend more money, but to be happy about it.While public libraries are not in the business of selling books, it occurs to me that we are (or should be) interested in getting patrons in the door and providing them not only with an enjoyable library experience but also to encourage them to take the fullest advantage of the resources that we have to offer. I suspect that during tough economic times people might turn more and more often toward libraries to provide not only research, literacy, and job search assistance but as a source for entertainment that might at one time be purchased.

I think it’s interesting to consider how libraries can effectively utilize some of the “rules” that Underhill lays out for compelling design of space as well as other ways of helping patrons feel informed, welcomed, and satisfied. Here’s just a few:

1. Don’t put anything important (signage, displays, baskets) in the “transition” area. This is the area 10 feet or so around the entrance. The idea is that patrons (customers) don’t actually “see” anything until they get this far into the library (store) so anything put there is more than likely to go unnoticed.

2. Provide chairs. People will spend more time in places where they are comfortable. In the absence of formal furniture, people will improvise and sit on the floor, on window sills, on top of shelving units…you get the picture.

3. Provide the patron with what she or he needs. For libraries this might be items as basic as step stools, baskets, pencils and scratch paper, and staplers.  I think things like photocopiers and catalog computers fit in this category as well.

4. In terms of interior design, a basic, but often forgotten, factor is simply providing enough space for patrons to move in comfortably. Planning for this needs to involve considering patrons who move with walkers or wheelchairs as well as patrons pushing strollers.

5. Another design consideration has to do with the exterior of the building. Underhill’s belief is that a well-designed building is an advertisement for itself and invites you to step inside. One iconic library design is the 5th Avenue branch of the New York Public Library (at right) and check out these views of the Dublin, CA public library ( below).

What do you think of treating the patron’s library experience as similar to a shopping experience? How does a child’s happy library experience differ from an adult’s, or a teen’s?

If you’re at all interested in what motivates a shopper, then I think you’ll find Underhill’s book an absorbing and amusing read. Or check out these titles:

Shoptimism: why the American consumer will keep on buying no matter what by Lee Eisenberg.

Buy-ology: truth and lies about why we buy by Martin Lindstrom.

Treasure Hunt: inside the mind of the new global consumer by Michael J. Silverstein with John Butman.


“Make your own baby food?  Are you insane?  Don’t you have enough to do?”

Yes, probably, and definitely.

I probably never would have considered making my own baby food, if my sister-in-law hadn’t done it first.  I’d never imagined such a thing somehow.  Baby food comes in jars, right?  It’s specially formulated for the nutritional requirements of babies…or so I assumed.  As it turns out, a baby food jar of pureed carrots contains…well, pureed carrots.  Expensive pureed carrots, I might add, since you can buy a bag of carrots for a whole lot less.  Once cooked, throw them in the blender, pour them into ice cube trays and freeze, and voila!–you have just created several servings of homemade baby food.

Commercial baby food was first introduced around 1900, but didn’t become more available until around 1930.  It gained in popularity in the latter part of the twentieth century (sounds like a long time ago, huh?) as pre-packaged, processed foods moved to the forefront of the American diet.  Organic baby food didn’t appear in jar form until 1987, however.

So while there’s the option now of less processed, more organic prepackaged baby food, it’s still relatively easy to make your own.  You’ll save money, have more control over what goes into your babe’s tummy, and maybe feel a little smug about your amazing Supermom (or dad) abilities.  It also made me take a closer look at what our family eats, and has led to healthier choices for all of us.  And if you think about it, it’s only a span of three months or so that babies require pureed foods.  Before you know it, Baby will be asking for food off of your plate!

The Library has several good books to get you started:

baby food bibleThe Baby Food Bible: a complete guide to feeding your child, from infancy on by Eileen Behan

This self-proclaimed baby food bible is just that–a comprehensive guide to foods by age as well as a thoughtful look toward healthier eating habits for the whole family.  I just recently discovered this book and am looking forward to trying some of the recipes for toddlers.

Super Baby Food by Yaron

Super Baby Food: absolutely everything you should know about feeding your baby and toddler from starting solid foods to age three years by Ruth Yaron

Yaron’s book is considered by many to be the ultimate baby food guide, although it goes a little overboard in some areas.  It’s essential as a basic what-to-feed-when-and-how guide, though, so mark the pages you’ll use the most (like the list of foods and how to prepare them) and ignore the rest until you need them (and unless you like dessicated liver or making your own finger paints, you may never need everything in this book).

[read the rest of this post…]


Sep 17 2010

Shop, Shop, Shop

by Amanda L

(picture courtesy of Sky City Blog)

Sometimes I am inspired by other blogs and this is such a time.  I  recently discovered through a friend, a blog dedicated to Southern Retail.  The blog is a  history but more importantly the architecture of malls. This blog explores malls in the South both in the past and present. Each entry displays pictures and a brief history of the mall. This blog reminded me of the website the Atlanta Time Machine.  DCPLive wrote a post about this several years ago.

Having spent many an hour at most of the malls listed in the Atlanta area due to my previous career, I found the site fun and informative. Who doesn’t think about shopping when a mall is mentioned. One thing that has always puzzled me, not being a shopper, is why people shop. The Library has many books about this subject and the joy of shopping.

If you like history and like to reminisce in days gone by, the Library has a histories of Sears, Macy’s and Rich’s in our collection.  I am always amazed what the Library has that will quench my desire to re-experience the past.


Jun 10 2010

Local, Organic, and Slow

by Jimmy L

Do you know where your food comes from?  Neither did I, until a couple of months ago; I used to buy food from the big supermarkets.  But, partially fueled by books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and movies like Food, Inc., there has been a recent surge of interest in this question of where our food comes from, and what chemicals have been put into it.  I’ve not read or seen these books or documentaries myself, as I have a huge fear of finding out all the horribly true facts that I’m totally happy ignoring.  However, I’ve started going to local organic farmers markets, which are cropping up all over the place.  Even if you didn’t care where your food comes from, it’s still a refreshing experience attending these markets.  Each farmer sells you his or her veggies, fruit, meat, milk, eggs, pastries and/or cheeses themselves.  I find it especially reassuring that each of my dozen eggs is of a different size and shape, which is the way it should be!  And they taste much better than grocery store bought eggs.  Also, I know that my vegetables are freshly harvested from Georgia clay often within the last 24 hours, instead of being trucked across the country from who knows where.  Here are some of the local organic farmers markets that I’m aware of.  If you know of any others in or around DeKalb County, please share with us in the comments section…

  • Decatur Farmers Market – there is one every Wednesday at the corner of Church and Commerce from 4pm to 7pm (Winter hours are 3pm to 6pm).  There’s also one run by the same people on Saturdays, from 9am to Noon across the street from Chic-Fil-A on N. McDonough.
  • East Lake Farmers Market – Saturdays from 9am to 1pm at the corner of Hosea L. Williams Dr SE & 2nd Ave SE.
  • East Atlanta Village Farmers Market – Thursdays 4pm to 8pm May thru November at 1231 Glenwood Ave (Village Hardware)

More books and movies about eating locally grown organic food that I haven’t read:


Sep 28 2009

Pitiful Lawn

by Ev S

My lawn is pitiful.  It’s got brown spots, bare spots, pretty purple weeds, and holes.  I’m not very picky about lawns.  I figure that some shade of green is good, even if it’s rye grass.  I’m also a lazy gardener.  There are several websites to go to, including Georgia’s own Walter Reeves.  Books are also in great plenitude.  I’ve not read them, yet.  We even have DVDs such as Lawns in the Landscape.  I hope between the website, the books below, and the DVD I’ll figure out how to make my lawn pretty instead of pitiful.

The Organic Lawn Care Manual by Paul Tukey

The Lawn Bible by David Mellor

Easy Lawns edited by Stevie Daniels (I think this is the book for me)


Aug 31 2009

It’s Not Easy Being Green

by Nolan R

sleeping_naked_is_greenWhen I ran across Vanessa Farquharson’s book, Sleeping Naked Is Green: How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days, I was intrigued.  While I don’t think I’ll be unplugging my fridge anytime soon (is that even possible in this heat?), selling my car (sorry, Jnai!), or looking for love (my husband wouldn’t approve), I am interested in living a greener life without going insane (or appearing that way).

I have tried to make small changes at home to be more green.  My husband and I haven’t done anything too drastic–although our families think our recent decision to cloth diaper our twins is a little extreme–but we’ve made minor adjustments here and there that (we hope) will reduce our carbon footprint and maybe save a polar bear or two from extinction.  We changed all our lightbulbs to compact flourescent bulbs, swapped to cloth napkins for everyday, replaced paper towels in the kitchen with dishrags and towels, and put a bucket in the shower to catch the water as it heats (which we then use to water our garden).  We also recycle and compost when we can.  But do we really have to stop eating at restaurants that use styrofoam take-out containers or stop using antiperspirants?

Although afraid of losing her cool hipster status and being mistaken for a hippie, or worse yet, a blogger, Ms. Farquharson took the plunge and began a daily blog about her changes in an effort to provide a humorous real-life view on the effect that living green might have on a regular everyday person.  All the while bearing a tiny, imaginary Al Gore on her shoulder,  she makes changes both small and large:  “Switch to recycled paper towels,” “Lower the temperature on my water heater,” or “Sell my car.”  Some changes are a little more unusual (or just plain odd), such as “Skip gown at doctor’s office” or “Drip-dry dishes in dishwasher rack above houseplants.”

If you’d like to follow Ms. Farquharson’s continuing journey on the road to being green, check out her blog Green as a Thistle.  Interested in finding out your own carbon footprint and your impact on the environment?  Go to the EPA’s Household Emissions Calculator or The Nature Conservancy’s Carbon Footprint Calculator and get a personalized estimate.  Then maybe you, too, will decide to carry a totebag and give up on pajamas…