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


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?


Dec 15 2010

Not your usual holiday sounds

by Dea Anne M

For a number of years, I worked in retail and each holiday season I was loath to play seasonal music at home given how saturated my ears would become at work. I have to say though, there is something about playing those special seasonal sounds that makes the holiday feel complete. There is a wealth of traditional and contemporary music available from DCPL, but if you’re in the mood for something a little off-beat, check out these offerings.

First off, let us remember that Christmas isn’t the only holiday celebrated at this time of year. Although Hanukkah is over for this year, you can still enjoy such music as A Taste of Chanukah and Happy Chanukah Songs. For Kwanzaa, which starts December 26th, you can listen to Kwanzaa Party! and The Kwanzaa Album.

…and on to Christmas specific music…

For fans of early music, there is A Medieval Christmas from The Boston Camerata and On Yoolis Night from Anonymous 4.

Do you like bluegrass? Check out Christmas On the Mountain: A Bluegrass Christmas. Is it jazz you favor? Try A Smooth Jazz Christmasfrom Dave Koz & Friends.

Or select from this Christmas stocking of sounds:

Christmas On the Border (blues and salsa)

Yule B’ Swingin’ (big band)

Surfin’ Christmas (surf stylings)

Mambo Santa Mambo (mambo beats!)

Are you planning a cool, swinging, Mad Men-esque party for the holidays? For your soundtrack, consider Christmas Cocktails I and II or Christmas With the Rat Pack.  Crazy baby!

Finally let us give a thought to a couple of soundtracks which have, for many of us, become holiday classics.

A Charlie Brown Christmas


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

What are your favorite holiday sounds?


Dec 5 2007

Kwanzaa at DCPL

by Heather O


Officially observed between December 26th – January 1st, stop by and celebrate Kwanzaa early this year at your Library. Several DCPL branches are celebrating Kwanzaa Awareness December 1-18 with events ranging from poetry, crafts, movies, and art for all ages.

Today on Wednesday December 5th: you can hear stories for all ages at the Wesley Chapel-William C. Brown Library at 10:30 am, enjoy and learn about African teas at the Scott Candler Library at noon, children ages 6-12 can create fun Kwanzaa crafts at Redan-Trotti Library at 4, and then end the day learning more about the roots of Kwanzaa with stories, puppets, film, and discussions for the entire family at the Sankofa event at Wesley Chapel-William C. Brown Library at 6:30 pm.

Based on classical African cultures and popularized during the struggle for Civil Rights, Kwanzaa is a Pan-African/African-American multicultural festival focusing on seven values, or principles:

  • Umoja (Unity) Afri
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
  • Nia (Purpose)
  • Kuumba (Creativity)
  • Imani (Faith) 
  • For more information on the celebration, preparations, and history; please visit the Official Kwanzaa website.

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