- My in-laws are in town and we ate at a diner here in Queens last week called Georgia Diner; we had heard that it had fantastic diner fare. They did. But the coleslaw just looked nasty – lots of dripping mayonnaise – and my mother-in-law and I both passed on it. I told her I knew of an Ina Garten recipe for coleslaw that used olive oil and vinegar instead of mayo. Well, the Dining section corrected my memory; it was a recipe for potato salad, not coleslaw. Whether it’s coleslaw or potato salad, it sounds so much lighter and more elegant made with champagne vinegar than gloppy mayo.
- I’m an egg fanatic. I like them soft-boiled, scrambled (with goat cheese, thank you), fried, poached…pretty much anything but hard-boiled. The thing I like best about making eggs is that they offer infinite possibilities – you can mix just about anything in, you can prepare them a dozen different ways, and they conveniently seem to soak up the flavors of anything you cook them in. So I was enormously pleased to see the recipe for Baked Egg with Proscuitto and Tomato. Sounds simple and delicious, even if the tomato is out of season by about six months. I’ll wait until summer for this one. July never seemed so far away! (Side note: Feeling a little under the weather after a…um…long night of imbibing? The magic cure is a poached egg on top of a piece of lightly buttered toast, with just a dash of salt and pepper. Coupled with Advil and water, it will cure all your ills.)
- Frank Bruni rated the 10 Best New Restaurants in “Let’s Eat, Not Fuss.” And I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had actually been to one of them: Anthos! And I do agree that it’s one of the best I’ve been to in the city. Why am I surprised that I had actually been to one of the restaurants? I’m definitely more a home-cook-type-of-foodie versus the restaurant-type. I don’t usually run in the same circles as Frank Bruni. So it was a surprise that we had actually been to the same place! Why do I have "The Jeffersons" theme song in my head? Hmm…
This is just the funniest damn thing I’ve seen in awhile, and it ties in quite nicely with my Little Women post: Meg Cabot does scenes from the Louisa May Alcott classic, using her Madame Alexander dolls.
Thanks to Not Your Mother’s Bookclub for the link…and they apparently got it from Read Roger.
I’ve been ultra-super-duper busy lately planning our library’s 1st Annual Mock Caldecott Event, which took place last Tuesday. Surprisingly, it is the first one our library system has ever had. I was a wee bit nervous, as no one ever seems to be as gushy and enthusiastic over the books as I am, but my fears were completely unfounded. I might go so far to say that some of the discussions were impassioned. No kids at this one – only 70 or so librarians! Based on a series of voting beforehand, the five books we discussed were:
1. The Magic Rabbit by Annette Cate
2. The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice Harrington
3. Old Penn Station by William Low
4. The Wall by Peter Sis
5. Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems
I said to my mentor beforehand: “Mark my words, The Wall won’t be anywhere near the top of the voting.” I was very very wrong. The Wall seemed to be the most polarizing, the most intriguing, the most discussion-inducing book of the group. Lots of opinions about that one. So what were the results?
The other three books were very, very close so we only ended up with one Honor book. When the announcement was made, half the room erupted in cheers and the other half gaped because they couldn’t figure out how The Wall came out on top. Go figure. Kind of like the real awards, right?
MOCK CALDECOTT HONOR WINNER:
The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice Harrington, illus by Shelley Jackson
We’ll absolutely do it again next December – it was some of the best fun I’ve had since starting my job a year ago. In fact, there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for a Mock Newbery too!
- There was also a chocolate truffle article that sounded pretty damn good. I’m not a sweets kind of gal, but I provide the recipe and picture here for posterity.
- There was also a list of culinary books with an off-the-beaten-track flavor, but none of them stuck out much for me. I provide the link here, though, because it could be the last-minute gift you’re looking for.
- I may not volunteer in a soup kitchen during the holidays, but I do donate well. Apparently Kevin Bacon does work for food banks…is it incredibly superficial to ogle the picture of Kevin instead of reading the article??? Yes, I know it is. So I did read the article and found some ideas for charities to donate to…and then I ogled Kevin. Can't afford the time? Then spend $10 less per person on your holiday list and send the leftover proceeds to a local food bank. Do what you can.
- Pink champagne…or rosé champagne? It doesn’t matter. This article made me thirsty for “drama in a glass” (as quoted by Mireille Guiliano).
Bon appetit and happy holidays to all!
Thanks to my daily Shelf Awareness email for the link.
Though many of Stephenie Meyer's fans may have dreamed of being Bella Swan, star of the author's Twilight saga, actress Kristen Stewart (seen most recently in Into the Wild) will play Bella in the movie adaptation of Twilight, and Robert Pattinson (who appeared as Cedric Diggory in the last two Harry Potter movies) will star as Edward. Production of the Summit Entertainment film begins production next February and will be directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Lords of Dogtown). Melissa Rosenberg (Step Up) adapted Meyer's novel for the screen.
Cedric Diggory as Edward???? Swoooon! And yes, of course, I dream of being Bella. But, you know, less whiny and way more capable of self-defense. But the big question still remains: who did they cast as Jacob????
Yeah, I know. I took an unannounced hiatus from the blogosphere, which I think is a total faux-pas. Particularly when I’m just getting started. But it is what it is, right? The point is that I’m back and ready to move forward.
So let’s start with last week’s NYT Dining section. One word: awesome. They were so uninspiring for awhile, but they’re back with a vengeance. Kinda like my blog! So here’s the scoop:
~ Ooooh, absinthe! Seriously, people, it’s back! My local French restaurant has it on the menu as an aperitif, and the Times is writing about it. The article was actually really interesting because it goes into the history of absinthe, why it was banned, and the exciting innovations going on today. You’ll read this article and be half-tempted to buy a bottle…except that the good stuff cost upwards of $65 for a bottle. Yikes! I hate to plop down that kind of money without some sort of reassurance that I’m going to thoroughly enjoy it. And I’ve never tried absinthe so that guarantee is completely lacking. But if I do try it, you’ll be sure to know.
~ Wine prices are going to go up. Which is really not good news for a blog with “pinot” in its name. Will that stop me from spending half my paycheck on the grape? Never.
~ There was an article on the death of the entrée. But it didn’t do much for me. The entrée is over? Who cares? I just want to eat good food, whether it’s on one big plate or lots of little ones. Just make sure it’s quality.
~ There’s a recipe for Bulgar Pilaf with Chestnuts and Spicy Tangerine Brown Butter. Am I the only one that thinks that sounds insane?! But they wouldn’t put in the Times if it were total crap, right? Right? So naturally I’m tempted to try it.
~ Okay, I hesitate to even mention this next bit because it makes me a hypocrite. But there’s a blurb about cured ham from Spain called Jamón Ibérico. It cures for more than two years and will cost you a pretty penny at $50 a pound. Apparently, it hasn’t previously passed U.S. health inspections, but now it has and it’s coming to the States. Part of me is thrilled – I’m sorry, but I would happily pay $25 for a half-pound experience. However, having read Omnivore’s Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I know what sort of carbon footprint my $25 purchase is making. But damn! I want to try that ham!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the NYT Dining section last week. Cool, eh? A proper re-debut for my blog. Now, go forth and, for heavens’ sake, eat well.
Have any of you gone back and read those classics you loved years ago…but have never revisited? I was feeling uninspired by the unread books on my personal bookshelves…so I reached for Little Women. I haven’t read it since I was 12 years old or so. Luckily, I had a lengthy subway ride into Manhattan today and was able to get into it….
…And I’m not so sure I like it as much anymore. I mean, don’t get me wrong – reading about the March sisters is just as delightful as can be. They’re some of the best written characters ever. But all of the sisters’ we’ll-try-to-be-less-wicked moralizing is a bit annoying.
This concerns me because I vividly remember falling in love with this book as a kid. So why would it annoy me so much as a grown-up? Perhaps it was just my mood?
But now I’m looking at my shelves – seriously, they’re just to my right – and considering the rest of those classics I loved and have been hanging on to: Catcher in the Rye, The Fountainhead, Fahrenheit 451, Wuthering Heights. These are books that had tremendous influence on me as a teenager – and I haven’t read them since (I don’t usually read books more than once). I definitely think I’ll resist cracking them open again anytime in the near future. Little Women has lost its luster a bit for me now – I’d hate for that to happen with the others.
Anyhoo, this is the week where it finally came back together, and I just pored over every inch of the paper. Needless to say, they caught my attention with this picture on the front page:
Shazam! As you’ve probably guessed, the article was about heritage turkeys and trying to preserve not only certain breeds of turkeys but also preserve the integrity of the term “heritage.” The article’s author, Kim Severson, told one farmer’s story; the farmer is the preeminent heritage turkey farmer in the country, and there are several mentions of how much he loves his turkeys. It’s funny – I’ve heard this about turkey farmers before. Likewise, an article about buffaloes several weeks ago talked about the same thing – how attached to the animals these farmers are. I find this fascinating. Clearly I am so out-of-the-loop with Mother Nature. I can’t imagine being so attached to an animal or “the land.” I feel a sense of detachment, lack of understanding, and…indifference, perhaps. Definitely not good. But what to do? Leave my 17th floor apartment in NYC and go live off the land? That hardly seems reasonable or realistic. So the question becomes how do I find the sense of the natural in the city? And I don’t think I can argue that Union Square and Central Park do it for me, as I have said for the 7 months I’ve lived here. Because when it gets down to it, for the long haul, Union Square and Central Park don’t come close.
I was also struck by this photo on the front page as well:
I'm telling you: the front page was eye candy! This picture was advertising an interesting article on Madeira and that River Café is selling some of their most highly coveted bottles.
Frank Bruni wrote an unexpectedly funny article about patronizing language use by restaurant staff - we've all heard the phrases he mentions ("Pardon my reach"...so why the hell don't you just say "Excuse me"???). I won't say anything else about it because there's no way I can adequately sum up Bruni's delicious smugness. Just go read it for a good snicker.
Calling all chocolate lovers! Read here for the most delicious places in NYC to get that high. Our country may have its puritanical roots, but thank goodness for the hedonistic pleasures of chocolate and coffee. How else are we to get through the daily grind?
And recipes! Oh, yes, there are recipes! Check out two: Pan-Fried Pizza and Bacon Topped Meatloaf Burgers. Mouth watering much? But I do approach these recipes with trepidation. First, I have a real hate-hate relationship with pizza dough. That stuff is just gosh-darned sticky and difficult - I have never found a pizza dough I've liked. Especially since the husband can get this thin crust at Chelsea Market on his way home and save me such a huge headache. It's not even that bread-y, heavy crust - it's that light as air stuff that crisps up so beautifully. So I have to wonder if this is worth the trouble on a Thursday night when we're trying to get the kiddo bathed and in bed, you know? As far as the burgers are concerned, they sound delectable, but the author, Melissa Clark, seemed to take out a lot of ingredients that makes meatloaf...you know...meatloaf. No eggs and breadcrumbs?! And the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and onions added at a glaze at the end?! Not in the meatloaf?! I don't know - it just seemed like an awful lot of blaspheming going on there. But since I don't tend to be offended by blasphemy...I'll add this recipe to my repertoire.
See? Told you it was a good section this week.
Next to last was Jennifer Hunt, who is just about the bubbliest editor you’d ever want to meet. She presented Crocs by David Greenberg and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger (but it was actually edited by Alvina). The rhymes, about an urban family that goes on vacation, are funny and silly. Alvina read some pages aloud and the text had wonderful rhythm – this will be a hit at storytime, I assure you.
She also presented a clever-looking little book called Billy Bones by Christopher Lincoln (but it was actually edited by Nancy). It’s about a family of skeletons who lives in a closet and they keep the secrets of the family that lives in the house (funny, right?). According to Jennifer, there is a boy and girl protagonist who get equal page-time; however, the marketing people very smartly featured the boy on the cover and the title is boy-specific. I predict the boys will like this one.
Lastly, Jennifer presented Sara Zarr’s upcoming title, Sweethearts. If you’ll remember, Ms. Zarr is on the shortlist for that little token of recognition, the National Book Award for Story of a Girl. Sweethearts isn’t a sequel. I hadn’t grabbed a galley of this at the beginning of the preview but, following Jennifer’s presentation, I snatched this baby right up. It’s about two friends – Jennifer described it as one of those early-in-life friendships, where the relationship is the first one where you let someone into your life beyond your family. One of the friends moves away but then returns years later when they’re now in high school. Obviously, they’ve grown up completely different, one is now in the popular crowd and the other one has stayed in that nerdy group. I’m not describing the book as eloquently as Jennifer, of course, but nevertheless it appears that Sara Zarr is officially a rock star of YA literature.
Next at our table was Andrea Spooner, editor extraordinaire who had only been back to work for 3 days from maternity leave. She started off with Willow Buds by Mary Jane Begin. The cover states the book has “friendship stories inspired by The Wind in the Willows.” Andrea was clear to point out that these are not retellings, but they are original stories. She also compared the tales to the Muppet Babies, Toad and Badger before the Wind in the Willows days. She also called it a “values book” – which made me cringe a bit – telling us that it teaches kids how to “navigate friendship” but that the book is “not didactic.” Intriguing, no? I do see quite a few people chanting “blasphemy!” about it…
She also presented a really cool full-color graphic novel, In the Small, by Michael Hague (yes, that Michael Hague). It’s an apocalyptic survival story where Mother Nature has exacted her revenge on humanity and made the people only 6 inches tall. I’m not a graphic novel fan, but I made sure to pick up a galley of this one – I might be convinced to switch sides.
Lastly, Andrea showed us The Mighty Twelve by Charles R. Smith, Jr. and illustrated by P. Craig Russell. The idea is that Greek gods are portrayed as superheroes with superpowers. Andrea promoted it as a teaser to get kids interested in mythology, and she also recommended it for reluctant readers. The text is written in what seems to be poetry...however, try reading it out loud. The rhythm is fantastic - it has a slam poetry, hip hop feel to it that could be dynamic in a classroom setting. However, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. There are so few mythology books printed anymore, of any note, yet kids consistently need them for reports. This book won't be your answer - there really isn't enough to support assignments. Nevertheless, the illustrations have a cool classic, comic book feel and they're in full-color. And the text presents lots of possibilities.
However, I was enormously dismayed not to see Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban on there. It was an exceptionally well-crafted novel: equal parts humor, poignancy, coming-of-age, and conflict. It was smart and it didn’t condescend. So what happened to it in the shuffle? Perhaps it’s too quiet, too endearing, too…something? And where – oh, for goodness sake, where! – was Let It Shine by Ashley Bryan?! That omission is glaring and I think some readers are going to have something to say about that. Like me.
Lastly, since when did “children’s fiction” become ages 7-18??? I missed that somewhere.
Thanks to Fuse #8 for the info.
EDIT: Kirkus also came out with their Best of 2007 list.
*Apparently the omnipotent weatherpeople are forecasting possible snow showers this weekend for the NYC Metro area. Mwah?!
But I digress.
The recipe, from her Barefoot in Paris book, calls for a roux: you melt butter in a saucepan, add flour, stir it around until it becomes a sticky paste, then vigorously whisk it while adding hot milk. Once it’s all thick, you add Gruyère, parmesan, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. However, tonight’s sauce was so watery that it hardly seemed that I added flour at all, let alone a cup’s worth of cheese.
The kicker is that I’ve made this recipe about a half-dozen times and every time has turned out different. I’ve had lusciously thick creamy sauces…and I’ve encountered the water-sauce before as well.
So my question is: what is the trick here?! Is it the heat I’m using? Is it my pan? Is it the type of butter and milk? I looked up “roux” in my Food Lover’s Companion*, but it was no help, other than to inform me that I made a white roux versus a blond roux. And that there's a whole separate roux you make with lard. Have any of you tried to find lard in a store?! Not an easy feat, let me tell you. At least it wasn't when I lived in Jersey. Again, I digress.
So what did I do? What any novice cook would do, of course. I ordered my husband to add another tablespoon of flour! And any of you experienced cooks out there will probably guess what happened. The flour globbed all up and looked like bits of congealed cream floating in my sauce. The good news is that once the whole saucepan was poured on top of the sandwiches and stuck under the broiler the bits of flour disappeared. It was a decadent and delicious dinner.
In other food-related adventures, I’m giving up my search for Sortilège maple liqueur. Why have I been looking for it, you ask? Because I love all things pumpkin and I’ve been sitting on a recipe for a Pumpkintini. I’ve never made it, but I’m convinced this is my year. I got it from Rachael Ray’s mag. But it uses this maple liqueur, which I had never even heard of until this recipe came on my radar. I can't find it anywhere. I have a friend of mine who runs the bar at a darling restaurant in Brooklyn Heights, and he swears that he has Sortilège on his shelf right now...but there's no way I'm going all the way to Brooklyn Heights for it. Even if it is to make what I have built up in my mind to be the end-all-be-all of drinks. So I'm giving up...for now. But like all true obsessions, I'm only taking a break. The search will be on again in another week or so.
Alvina also mentioned The Postcard by Tony Abbott (of Firegirl and Secrets of Droon fame), describing it as “Carl Hiaasen meets Chasing Vermeer meets Holes.” Intriguing. But will it be boy-friendly? Let’s hope so.
Alvina also presented The Blue Stone by Jimmy Liao, which is originally published in Chinese. It’s full-color and has been cut down from the original 160 pages to 80 pages to make it marketable in the States. It’s being advertised as “all ages”, which is always met with skepticism (which I told Alvina). It really isn’t for the picture book crowd, though some kids may enjoy browsing the illustrations. It’s really ideal for older kids, and it’ll be a good graduation gift, as reflected in the subtitle being added: “A Journey Through Life.” (Note: I believe this is the cover the Chinese edition - the new version Alvina showed us had a slightly different design)
First up at our table was Nancy. Unfortunately, her last name has escaped me but, no matter, because all you need to know is that she’s one of the most gorgeous editors you’ll meet. And as sweet as can be.
She started her presentation with Suddenly Supernatural: School Spirit by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (of Lily B fame). The main character’s mom is a supernatural medium and then the girl (Kat) realizes that she also has the power. The book is about friendships and mother-and-daughter relationships. A sequel is also planned, Scaredy Kat, due out next season.
We were also told about a novel by Alan Madison, 100 Days, 99 Nights, which is about a father who goes on a tour-of-duty, leaving a family behind. This is Alan Madison's first novel, though he is a prolific picture book author (Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly is one of my sentimental favorites of 2007). In this book, Iraq isn’t specifically named, though the war is taking place in a desert. Nancy stressed that it wasn’t political, and the illustrations intentionally have a very timeless, warm, endearing feeling to them. The book is recommended for ages 8-12, though it could go as low as 7. It will be interesting to see how this title does; while it looked really gorgeous – I just adored the illustrations – I’m thinking the audience could be rather limited.
Nancy also presented an ultra-cool-looking YA book called Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley, a debut novelist. It was described as a mix of Heathers and Mean Girls, which automatically pricked up my ears. Underneath that, though, it’s “about being invisible and wanting people to notice you.” Awwww. Before it was a book, it was a website – Ghostgirl – so check that out.
Lastly, Nancy presented the sequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey! This is going to make some kids very happy.
PUB DATES: Suddenly Supernatural - 6.08, 100 Days, 99 Nights - 5.08, Ghostgirl – 8.08, Perilous Journey – 5.08
So let’s talk about the preview. I started writing my post and it just got ridiculously long. Seriously. I couldn’t shut up and be more succinct, apparently. So I’m going to try something new – I’m spreading out my posts. Each day this week, I’ll cover a new editor’s presentation, and today I’ll just do a general description. So here’s the line-up for the week:
Monday: Nancy Whose-Last-Name-I-Can’t-Remember
Tuesday: Alvina Ling
Wednesday: Andrea Spooner
Thursday: Jennifer Hunt
Friday: Rich Johnson
So check out this blog on each of those days to find out about the new books these editors are publishing – there are some rather exciting prospects coming up.
I think I can say this without burning any bridges, but Little, Brown is my favorite preview to go to, which is not to say that I don’t enjoy the others, of course. But Victoria is so delightfully feisty, not to mention that I stood at the window of the Luce Room, looking at Radio City Music Hall, which was already decorated in its holiday regalia.
As I said, I was dressed up as an anti-social butterfly, and there were a few others dressed up as well. Betsy Bird had on some fun orange-and-black striped tights, which were perfect for the holidays, though I remember years ago the “grunge” crowd wore stuff like that on a daily basis. Thank goodness the “Seattle sound” is over. Amy Sears wore a Red Sox jersey but, no worries, her life was not in danger – there seemed to be quite a few Red Sox fans in the group. Carlie Webber was dressed up as Avril Lavigne, which was pretty fun, though she did complain that most people didn’t know who she was supposed to be…and she got some weird looks on the train.
At Little, Brown the editors circulate around the room, while you get to sit in one place, sipping coffee and munching some of the best snackies provided in the publishing biz. To celebrate the holiday, at the break, enormous Halloween cupcakes were brought out, in both vanilla and chocolate. Alas, I didn’t have one – it’s impossible to eat cupcakes gracefully and I didn’t want to make a total ass of myself, as I’m prone to do.
Each editor only presents about 3 books so you don’t ever feel rushed – there’s actually time for discussion! How novel! Though I suppose that also invites criticism from the peanut gallery, but the editors always seem to handle it graciously and take what is said to heart. As a result of this method of presentation, you definitely get a personal relationship going with each editor – more so than other houses, I think.
Okey dokey, stay tuned for the rest of the round-up this coming week!
- Queens Library may have the #1 circulation in the country, but NYPL gets a collection of Katherine Hepburn memorabilia, gifted to the library by her estate. We don’t have anything like that at QL that I’m aware of. See, this is why I mildly entertained the idea of focusing on archival studies in library school. I want access to these beautiful items. Thanks to my weekly AL Direct email for this tidbit.
Along the same lines, this was why I always wanted to work at HarperCollins – I’d do just about anything to see Ursula Nordstrom’s original letters.
- Also courtesy of my AL Direct email, Germany’s Library of the Year has been awarded to a small prison library, JVA-Münster, winning over all the showier public and academic libraries. I found this article particularly interesting given the controversy in the States lately about religious texts in our prisons. I’m not a big fan of loveliness in prisons – otherwise, why would it be considered a punishment to be there? However, I am in favor of the library being the one and only lovely place. When 80% of the prisoners use the library, and are bettering themselves by doing so, I can’t help but be a fan of that. I’d like to believe that if anything will help a prisoner succeed once they’ve rejoined society, it’s being literate and educated. But that’s just my naïve view…
- Visit the Longstockings page where Caroline Hickey tells a scary Halloween story that actually happened to the poor Longstockings crew. Some crazed B&B proprietor went completely berserk on them during their retreat and left our gals hunting for a place to stay on a rainy autumn night. I couldn’t help but wish that I was a writer so that I could have been there to be part of the story. Also, I thought that those sorts of things are horrific when they’re happening but – goodness gracious! – they make the Best Stories Ever. And even though I'm not a writer, I have to guess that it is life moments like this that make perfect fodder for creativity.
- Lastly, this past Tuesday we held an in-service meeting for the children’s librarians. We started off with a speaker who passed on frightening information about lead poisoning – she scared the crap out of everyone in the room, rightly so. To lighten things up, we ended with a visit from Amy Hest. I’m a bit sentimental about Mrs. Hest’s work – when I started working in a children’s room in Salem, Oregon at 22 years old, When Jessie Came Across the Sea was the first children’s picture book I bought for myself. Having just gotten married myself, I was incredibly sentimental about the moment at the end when Jessie gets the proposal. So I was awfully gushy about meeting Mrs. Hest. Luckily, there was no reason to be nervous – she was lovely and engaging. Not to mention that she inspired an entire room of children’s librarians to be writers: we get to swim laps in the morning, write in our pajamas, and be steps away from the ice cream in the freezer?!?! Sign me up for that gig!!!!
By the way, I tried to load a nifty little cover picture of Mrs. Hest's newest book, Remembering Mrs. Rossi, but my computer connection hates me. Truly. It's out to get me. So use your imaginations...or check out the link to Amazon. Apparently my computer can do hyperlinks but not images. Curse you, technology!!!!
And goodness gracious, lots of posts coming about food and books. You know, once someone figures out that time machine thing.
Will write soon with a round-up of Little, Brown's preview - which I'm heading off to now - and this week's Dining section.
Happy Halloween to all!
TONIGHT: We had no plans at all. So the kiddo got warmed up mac and cheese – the leftovers from our fatherless days. But I don’t just microwave it. Oh, no, not me. In fact, our “mikey” got donated with our move to NYC - no microwave in our house. I warmed it over the stove with some butter, half-and-half, and pecorino sprinkled in to give it a fresh flavor. With fresh-ground pepper, of course. The kiddo loved it and ate an apple with it. Adam will be home soon and he’s bringing fennel, portabellas, and monkfish for “adult dinner”. I’m going to roast the fennel with olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan. Then I’ll make a balsamic butter sauce to put over the grilled monkfish and mushrooms. Simple, elegant, and adults-only. Purrrrrrfect!
FRIDAY NIGHT: We are having some friends over at the last minute for a casual dinner. So I’m doing make-your-own pizzas. Adam will stop by the Chelsea Market on his way home tomorrow and pick up pizza dough, olives, pepperoni, basil, buffalo mozzarella (of course! Once you have buffalo, you can’t go back), roasted peppers, mushrooms, salame, and proscuitto. I have canned fire-roasted tomatoes I’ll use for a sauce. Presto! Instant fabulous dinner! And my friend apparently makes cinnamon fudge and she’s bringing some. I have NO doubt that I will swoon with the heavenliness of it all.
SATURDAY: We have a Halloween party at the kiddo’s school from 6-8 so we have to do a quickie meal. Which always translates to breakfast for me. I’m making poached local eggs, roasted local fingerling potatoes, grilled bread, and bacon. When time is short, go back to the basics, n’est-ce pas?
SUNDAY: Yay autumn! I’m doing Baked Goat Cheese and Roasted Winter Squash over Garlicky Fettuccine, courtesy of Cooking Light mag. I assure you, nothing about this meal tastes low in fat. The flavors will knock you off your feet. Yep, it’s that good. And can you think of another meal that captures autumnal flavors as well as this one? If you can, then I INSIST you send me the recipe. Otherwise, shhhhhh!
MONDAY: I’m bringing a breakfast-y dinner to the table again: Chestnut Pancakes with Bacon and Crème Fraîche, courtesy of Bon Appetit. The kiddo will put syrup over them, as will Adam too, but I like to sprinkle chives over it and call it good. I’ve only made it once before this, and I’m looking forward to giving it another go.
Anyone want to come over to join us? All we ask of our guests is a bottle of wine. If you knock on our door with a sangiovese in hand, you’re golden.
This comes courtesy of my American Libraries Direct email: “A Vision of Students Today," created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University. This was truly brilliant and, even though it’s centered around the college experience, it absolutely has relevance to modern-day elementary and high school education. Everything has to change.
This is also courtesy of my American Libraries Direct email. It’s a short preview for the new series, The Librarians, in Australia. Check out the children’s librarian! LOVE IT! I’d look like that too if my bra size was bigger. I’m just so giddy that someone finally realized that libraries are a comedic gold mine. The series debuts on October 31st and apparently you can download shows from the ABC website (unless you somehow subscribe to Australian TV).
Also, Your Neighborhood Librarian reviewed What Happens on Wednesdays by Emily Jenkins. I have to admit that I see her point. This was not my initial impression of the book. My first impression was that the book was, indeed, about “happy, hip parents escorting their, hm, 4 year old? daughter through their adorable Brooklyn neighborhood.” I didn’t see the sinister side of it until YNL pointed it out. Wow. I don’t think I’ll be able to look at that book the same way again. Which isn’t a bad thing. That’s why I’m such a blog-whore: I enjoy getting a fresh perspective on the books I’ve read. And for the record, YNL, there’s no way they can afford Brooklyn Heights. Yeah, Carroll Gardens. Or Bed-Stuy. Also, for the record, I do buy scarves still. I buy them from “the crafty neo-post-feminist” selling them in Columbus Circle around the holidays.
Last but not least, I have to direct you to this post on Sarah Miller’s blog. She did a visit to a school classroom, and it just sounds like it was the most wonderful experience. And as I said to Sarah, it is stories like this that renew my faith in the state of the world. As clichéd as it sounds, literature and reading do have the power to enact change and inspire children. It’s our job, as librarians, authors, teachers, and parents, to help children make that meaningful connection. (To put an even bigger smile on your face, check out the comments in response to Sarah's blog posts. The kids from the class posted on her blog to thank her for visiting!)
So…the HarperCollins preview. First off, it was the first publisher event I’ve been to since I started this job where I felt completely comfortable. I don’t feel like the new person anymore who knows no one or nothing. Instead, I got to single-cheek-kiss Michael Santangelo and have Kate McClelland tell me how beautiful I am (*blush*). I got to congratulate Patty Rosati on her new baby and talk about the cover of Melissa Marr’s next book with Anne Hoppe. Needless to say, I exhaled a huge sigh of relief.
So what goodies did I see? So many, soooooo many. This is going to be a long post.
1. The next Septimus Heap book, Queste. Unfortunately, I don’t have a cover but, nevertheless, this is going to make lots of kids (and librarians) happy come April 2008.
2. Roscoe Riley Rules, a new intermediate series by Katherine Applegate, promoted as “Junie B. Jones for boys”. We’re always in need of more “boy books” so I’m thrilled with this one. (June 2008)
3. You’re a Bad Man, Mr. Gum! by Andy Stanton, described by Michael Stearns as Monty Python-esque. I don’t know if that’ll help its kid appeal, but I know I’m excited for it! Check out the link for an excerpt. (March 2008)
4. A new picture book by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Gris Grimly: The Dangerous Alphabet. Unlike Wolves in the Walls, the editor says this will be a “true picture book”, in that it will actually be appropriate for the younger crowd. (May 2008)
5. Erin Hunter is also coming out with a new series: Seekers. The first book is The Quest Begins. It’ll be huge, of course. (June 2008)
6. I got goosebumps over the cover of the sequel to The Secret History of Tom Trueheart by Ian Beck: Tom Trueheart and the Land of Dark Stories. The plot sounds awesome – lots of strong female characters, per the editor – and the cover is super dark and foreboding. Chills! (June 2008)
7. Kevin Henkes has a new novel coming out: Bird Lake Moon. I don’t have a pic of the cover for you, but I thought it was a bit too subdued. Nevertheless, I expect greatness inside. (May 2008)
8. I got really excited about a debut author, Jody Feldman, and her book The Gollywhopper Games, which was described as “Encyclopedia Brown goes to Charlie’s chocolate factory.” Ooooh, intriguing! I have the galley and can't wait to read it. (February 2008)
9. The pièce de resistance! Fancy Nancy: Bonjour Butterfly! I’m such a Fancy Nancy geek and this one does not disappoint. It’s trés magnifique! That’s a fancy way of saying it’s wonderful. (February 2008)
10. And I’m just at the tip of the iceberg! I didn’t talk about Gail Carson Levine’s Ever, the Kanns’ Purplicious (sequel to Pinkalicious), Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis, or Laurence Yep’s Dragon’s Child. Not to mention an adorable picture book called Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski and illustrated by Lee Harper. Keep your eyes open because you will no doubt see Woolbur with face-out placement on B&N’s ubiquitous wall o’ picture books.
Phew! I’m exhausted. I still didn’t tell you about everything, but I think this is enough for now.
So what’s the point? Well, a little self-congratulations, of course! Despite all the insanity that comes with single-handedly running a household consisting of myself and a 6-year-old spirited child, I have to say that I whipped up a pretty good menu for the week:
LAST NIGHT, FRIDAY: It was “Kid Dinner Night.” So she got Annie’s Homegrown mac and cheese, while I made myself pumpkin ravioli with brown butter, sage, pine nuts, and parmesan. As a little extra finish, I lightly grated bittersweet chocolate over it. It may sound strange, but I assure that this gives the meal that little extra thing. You know, the thing.
TONIGHT: ABC sandwiches and fingerling potatoes. What are ABC sandwiches? Apple, bacon, and cheddar. Put it on rye or wheat bread with some Dijon. Dang! Simple, healthy, and really dee-lish. I just boiled the fingerlings then drizzled my brand-new awesome olive oil over them with some salt and pepper.
TOMORROW NIGHT: Yukon Gold potatoes with Gorgonzola and Pancetta. This is a new recipe so we’ll see how it goes. How can I go wrong with gorgonzola and pancetta, right? Then I’ll grill some shrimp for the kiddo and I’m grilling myself filet mignon, rare, of course.
MONDAY: Grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade applesauce. Last weekend we went apple-picking upstate so I’ve got apples coming out my ears. Hence, the applesauce. And I ain’t making no ordinary grilled cheese, oh no. Brie and proscuitto are going on mine.
TUESDAY: We’re doing antipasti. I know, this is my “lazy” meal. I’ve got sopressata and Serrano ham for the meat. For the cheese, I have a Ossau Iraty Paradou, Tome Fermier d’Alsace, and a local triple cream goat cheese. If you have access to Fresh Direct, you can try these cheeses yourself. The creamy goat cheese is going to pair well with the slightly salty Ossau Iraty. I have some really buttery crackers that cost a small fortune…but it doesn’t matter because they’re amazing. And lastly, I’ll do some roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, and olives. It’ll be super good and super easy.
Lastly, this is sort of related. Have you heard about this whole bike thing in France? Vélib? Apparently it’s really popular in other European cities. I love it. Again, it makes me suspect that I could be very happy living in Europe. I don’t know, though. Clearly I have a romanticized view of it all. It’s probably just like New York. Where you ride your bike around, risking life and limb, getting honked at, flipping people off, and lots of swearing in multiple languages. Right? But it’s still a nice idea…
This is going to be fairly short coverage: I didn’t find too many intriguing things in this past week’s section, which also accounts for the delay. There was an article about the difficulty of getting local carrots to NYC schools, but it just made me frustrated and powerless to create any positive changes. That article combined with the drought one in today’s Times Magazine just make me want to throw in the towel.
Anyhoo, there was a sorta fun article about curing your own olives, even in NYC. I would never do that – I don’t like olives – but it’s always fun to read about others who are so passionate about food and will go through great trouble to make the good stuff.
But other than that, there really wasn’t anything else noteworthy. Seriously. Oh well. The Dining section seems to be on an every-other-week rotation so I’m hoping for BIG things this coming week.
*For the record, I haven’t watched Sleepless in Seattle in 3 years. It’s fun to see Rosie before she got all belligerent and Meg before she tried to be edgy.
Excited for the Where the Wild Things Are movie? Yeah, me too. Educating Alice linked to an article about the movie's screenplay.
And let me tell you this: reading the article, I peed in my pants a little bit with excitement. Like a puppy.
Venezuelan Chocolate–Rum Drink
At the raucous late-night parties called parrandas, dancers need a pick-me-up. This one, from food author Maricel Presilla, fits the bill nicely.
1. Combine milk, star anise, cinnamon sticks, orange zest, allspice berries and brown sugar in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.
2. Scald milk, stirring to dissolve sugar. Lower heat and cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat; steep 10 minutes. Strain into a large pot.
3. Heat gently, then add bittersweet chocolate and dark rum. Whisk briskly until chocolate dissolves, about 5 minutes. Serve topped with whipped cream.
Whoever over at Atheneum got the blurbie from Richard Peck needs to be commended. He’s quoted on the cover: “Miss Spitfire is high drama about how language unlocks the world.” That sums it up so concisely and eloquently. However, while I do believe that the book is about language, I connected with it on a more personal level. Specifically, I connected with Annie Sullivan’s character: strong, willful, intelligent, stubborn, sensitive, determined. Given her history at Tewksbury and with her family’s dysfunction, could you even call Annie Sullivan damaged? I was caught up in the human struggle for connection and communication, the need for love, acceptance, and family.
Miller does a masterful job here because she takes those timeless, universal human struggles and puts them in the context of Annie Sullivan trying to teach Helen Keller. So even though I am far removed from that world and that time period, I still felt such a deep connection with everything and everyone in the story. Miller creates delicious tension in holding back that moment where Helen has her breakthrough at the water pump. I’m a novice when it comes to this story, but I do know all about that water pump moment, as most people do. So by holding back that one recognizable moment, Miller keeps you turning pages in anticipation for the happy ending we all know so well.
Note: Just make sure that you have Helen Keller: Her Life in Pictures in hand after you read this one - you'll want to look at the real life pictures of all these marvelous characters.
Other reviews of Miss Spitfire: Fuse #8, Becky's Book Reviews, Greetings from Nowhere, and read an interview with the author at Miss Erin.
First up was 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. I’ll admit now that I haven’t read Leepike Ridge yet. However, nearly every review I’ve read of 100 Cupboards so far has said that it’s good…but not as good as Leepike Ridge. Which is great news because I really liked 100 Cupboards. So I’m sure I’ll love Leepike Ridge!
This is just the perfect boy book. The cover (of the ARC, anyway) is all dark and mysterious and foreboding; I adore the cover. The plot is fast-moving and interesting. The antagonist is appropriately creepy and evil. The descriptions of the different worlds are thorough – I got a real sense of place. There’s some clever dialogue and some really cool characters (the cats!). The length is good too. See? Good multiple-world fantasy doesn’t have to be 500 pages!
That said, there are some problems. There are plot holes all over the place (i.e. there wasn’t a better solution to closing off the cupboards than plaster?!) and the character development is not nearly what it could or should be. I didn’t emotionally connect with anyone or anything in the book.
But I’m being nitpicky by pointing these things out because the kids that are looking for a fun and fast read most likely won’t care about these things. This is the fantasy book for kids who don’t like fantasy. Or for those kids who do like fantasy, but need to give their little muscles a rest from the thick tomes they normally lug around.
Check out N.D. Wilson's website, in particular his hilarious bio where he shares with us that he was born to "a couple of Jesus People hippies" and that "not everything I write is for children, but all of it is childish." I sense a crush developing...
COMING UP: My Miss Spitfire review and some other stuff.
One question, though: will I be completely ostracized for not taking part in Poetry Friday? I really don’t like poetry, for the most part. Shel Silverstein, Pablo Neruda, and Walt Whitman are about it. And everybody likes them, right? And I’m not posting Whitman every week – his poems can be damn long. Is posting only excerpts from his poems completely blasphemous? Hmmm…I’ll have to think more on this.
COMING UP: I swear, I really am going to post reviews of Miss Spitfire and 100 Cupboards. Seriously. I will.
- Studies have just revealed that picky eating is in the genes, not the cooking! Seriously! On one hand, I think it’s fantastic to hear – it’ s no wonder my girl is so picky because I was up for the award as Pickiest Eater as a kid. She can’t help it – it’s hereditary. I shouldn't take it so personally that she won't eat the food I cook.
On the other hand, doesn’t it seem a little bit like Convenient-Theories-4-U? Well, I guess I’ll keep making Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese because…well…my daughter has a hereditary condition. That doesn’t seem quite right either, you know?
For me, I'll keep trying. The key is to give lots of healthy, delicious options...and hope that she zeroes in on one.
- I loved this little article about making pesto. This is how I make pesto…at least how I used to make it before I moved to an apartment that gets only three hours of sun a day, thus making basil nearly impossible to grow. Either way, it’s good to know I’m not the only one who would never use a mortar and pestle to make my pesto. My mortar and pestle is right where it belongs…at the top shelf of my pantry.
- Corn’s effect on our environment, our country’s economy, and our health is getting more press in a new documentary coming out, King Corn. It’s being advertised as a cross between Super Size Me and Sicko, but the article in the Times makes it sound like the film is a little less sensationalistic than that. The point isn’t necessarily about corn’s evils but, rather, on why we should be more aware of what goes into our bodies. Obviously, Michael Pollan was an early adviser on the movie. I’ll probably check this out on Netflix, but I’m sure it won’t tell me anything I don’t know already: we are all made of corn!
- And this article isn’t actually from today’s Dining section; it’s from Sunday’s Week in Review section. But it’s written by Frank Bruni so it counts. He talks about sidewalk cafes in NYC. The city just approved the use of more natural-gas heaters in sidewalk cafes, thus extending the café season all the way through “late October”. The article really nails NYC culture – for one, I think Bruni’s theory that NYC wants to be a European city is right on the money – but it hints at a bigger issue. Prolonging the sidewalk café season goes hand in hand with the issue of seasonal food and cooking. Why should I only be able to enjoy tomatoes in the summer? If I can get them from Mexico in November, I can prolong the tomato season. It’s the same idea with the cafes. Part of the joy in them is the anticipation of their season. Not to mention that there’s something special about a glass of light wine, tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and basil outside on a gorgeous summer day. But butternut squash, steak, fennel? Not so much. Put me by a cozy fireplace for that meal, thanks.
And that's the round-up. At some point, I plan on posting another menu of what we're eating in our house...except that Adam is giving me a break this week and he's cooking. So Lemon Spaghetti (courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis) and Brodetto di Mare (courtesy of Michael Chiarello) are on the menu. Delicious and simple. And I'm not cooking it. Huzzah!
Who could it be?
Guess. Come on.
Does that give it away? If you haven't guessed now then there's no hope for you. Seriously.
Wait, should an emerging leader heckle her readers? Probably not. I'll have to change my ways.
But I think this one was my favorite: “A person who is so anal that they have sought a job to define their compulsive tendencies. As librarians, these 'overly enthusiastic' individuals can not only revel in their compulvieness, they can force it on other people too.” Some people may find this one mean too…but in my experience, what this man speaks is absolutely true.
* and ** I fixed the spelling and grammatical errors in the entries. I couldn’t keep them there and let you all think they were mistakes I had made. So these quotes have been altered from the original works.
Zoe wants nothing more than to own a grand piano, play in Carnegie Hall, and be a prodigy like her hero, Vladimir Horowitz. What does she actually get? A "wheezy, wood-grain Perfectone D-60...organ." Not only that, but her dad is agoraphobic, her mom is constantly working, and Wheeler Diggs follows her home everyday. Zoe enters the annual Perfect-O-Rama competition, at the urging of her organ teacher, and finds that sometimes when you don't get what you want, your life begins to take shape.
I don’t think I’m overstating it by calling this a near-perfect novel. I appreciate its subtlety and gentleness and, yet, it’s interesting and complex enough to keep you turning pages. Zoe is a funny, smart character who has some trouble fitting in, and Urban’s skill shows here because she never has to blatantly state that this is the case. Through events and conversations, Zoe’s social status is revealed in a quiet way. Aspects about Zoe's life come to light slowly, to the point where you don’t actually realize how much you’ve learned about her. And this is true of the supporting characters as well - you'll be surprised by how much character development is hidden in the short little chapters. Little snippets gel into a larger portrait. Zoe’s father is agoraphobic, but that’s never forced upon you as you’re reading. Events unfold and you realize that he is crippled by his phobia. It’s never melodramatic, it just is.
Additionally, Zoe’s voice is right on. She is introspective, but appropriately so for her age. She acts out, but never too much. Some books, recent and otherwise, would have you think tweens are ticking time bombs, mean and whiny and temperamental all the time. Is this the case sometimes? Absolutely. But I appreciate that Zoe isn’t in that mode all the time, which is more true to life. She’s a marvelously sympathetic character. Zoe is the typical underdog and you cheer both her and her family on, knowing that good people with strong hearts will triumph in the end. This story is the epitome of hopeful.
I liked this book better than any of the other Newbery contenders I’ve read this year. Remember I couldn’t come up with a fifth book for my Best of Fiction 2007 list? This one has filled that spot. Even if it is yet another girly protagonist book.
I turn on the Perfectone D-60 and flip the switch for piano. I press a key. I press two keys.
I am not excited.
I am the opposite of excited.
Never trust an exclamation point.
Which made me laugh out loud. I use exclamation points without restraint. Does this make me untrustworthy? It doesn’t matter – get a hold of this book now. Trust me (!!!!).
- I recently read a fantastic quote from John Constant of Elliott Bay Book Company – unfortunately, it completely escapes me where I read it (perhaps my daily Shelf Awareness email?). Everyone, meaning non-librarian types, asks me for the name of my favorite book. And I could never ever name just one. Well, Mr. Constant phrases it in such a way that I feel he understands me:
"Does anyone over the age of 16 even have a favorite book? Claiming a favorite is only indicative of the fact that you haven't read enough: Out of the thousands of books that I've read, with the enormous palette of ideas and emotions they've represented, how could I choose only, say, five? Why not ask for a favorite orgasm, or laugh, or grain of sand?"
- These are about the coolest tribute to Halloween ever! Cannibal pumpkins, puking pumpkins, and the most disturbing – pumpkin giving birth. Check it out and get in the mood! Thanks to Your Neighborhood Librarian for the link.
- Thought the midnight book parties were a thing of the past once Harry graduated from Hogwarts? Not so. Powell’s Books in Portland is throwing a midnight party for Stephen Colbert’s new book I Am America (And So Can You!). The party is in a bar across the street from Powell’s and they’re decorating in red, white, and blue. Not to mention shooting “Truthiness” Tequila. See, NYC isn’t the only place with really, really cool stuff. Again, if you can handle that rain, move to Portland now. While you can still afford to do so.
I know, I know. This is a short post. Coming up? The NYT Dining section tomorrow, a photo of some local succulent mini-pears from New York, and a review of A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban (Hint: I loved it).