Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Summer in a Jar

2014 was an excellent year for tomatoes on the farm.  For this year's garden, I scaled back on the variety of items, and just put in tomatoes, peppers, basil and cutting flowers.  It's very exciting when the first little greenies begin to swell and ripen, but later I found myself inundated with many ripe red globes begging to be put to some use.

We ate a lot of fresh tomatoes, gazpacho and salsa.  Another favorite is caprese salad with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.  The flowers came inside to brighten up spots all around the house.  Although I planned to can tomato sauce, or marinate peppers, I never got around to it.  But there's always next year for me, and if you would like to take advantage of your produce year round, the library has some great resources for the home canner/preserver.

Canning, preserving, drying and pickling home grown fruits and vegetables are all great ways to preserve summer's bounty and with the spread of the locavore movement, you can get great fresh local produce even if you don't have the ability to grow your own.

Saving the Season: A Cook's Guide to Home Canning, Pickling and Preserving by Kevin West - A stylish, richly illustrated, practical guide for home cooks and preserving enthusiasts, this is the first cookbook from journalist Kevin West, author of the popular blog Incorporating classic favorites and new flavors, there are more than one hundred recipes, organized by season.

Blue Ribbon Country Canning: State Fair Award Winning Modern and Traditional Recipes by Diane Roupe.   This book presents detailed instructions on food preservation techniques while featuring ninety-five recipes for the safe canning of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, jams, jellies, sauces, and relishes.

Preserving: Putting Up the Season's Bounty from the Culinary Institute of America outlines the health and environmental benefits of canning and preserving backyard produce, shares detailed instructions for every method while providing more than sixty recipes for pickles, jams, and other homemade foods.

Well Preserved by Eugenia Bone is a collection of 30 small batch preserving recipes and 90 recipes in which to use the results.  In addition to canning, the book shows how to use methods like oil preserving and curing.

If you are more of a visual learner, the library also offers a DVD called "The Art of Canning", which covers equipment needed, storage and how to clean everything as well as the basics of caning jam, pickles, vegetables and even eggs.

There are a couple of farm/ranch life blogs that I dip into now and then.  One of these is the Pioneer Woman, blogged by the now popular Food Network personality, Ree Drummond.  Drummond has written several cookbooks, and her blog has several good posts on canning.  There is a beginners project on strawberry jam - that's good way to learn the basics.

Another blogger turned book author is Suzanne McMinn, whose blog "Chickens in the Road" chronicles her adventures on a small farm in rural West Virginia.  Her blog hosts a great forum of like-minded folks who share their advice and recipes.  A couple of posts give the basics of canning, with lots of pictures and step by step instructions.

A tried and true friend to both farmers and suburban farm types is the local Extension Service.  The UMD Extension Service offers advice on all kinds of topics, and each year they hold "Grow It, Eat It, Preserve It" workshops at their Derwood facilty.  One of these workshops is coming up on September 16th, and you can get registration information  here. If you can't make the workshop, a  portion of their website is devoted to food preservation and canning, and there are many links to useful information and videos.

No excuses for next year now!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wouldn’t You Rather Pick Outdoor Survival Than Indoor Survival?

So school has started. The last day of summer vacation is the worst day, I think.  Once you are actually at school, it isn’t as bad as you thought, right?  Or, was it just as bad as you thought or worse? 

How about some escape literature so you can feel better about where you are in comparison, or maybe just to help you escape from where you don’t want to be.  The books below are all about teens’ survival in the wild. I'll start with the newest and the oldest title on my list.

Boys in the Boat : Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics  by Daniel James Brown 
Goodreads website says, "The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936."  The main character in this riveting story is Joe Rantz, a teenager who is abandoned by his family and survives all on his own, eventually managing by himself to enroll in the University of Washington.

Three Men in the Boat, To Say Nothing of the Dog by Jerome K. Jerome 
A totally different kind of survival story of a bumbling Victorian well-to-do threesome (and a very wise dog) who decide to flow down the Thames to cure their collective depression. 

There is also a graphic novel version of this timeless story by Nidi Verma in Campfire Graphic Novels.

Breath by Tim Winton
It’s a story of extremes—extreme sports and extreme emotions.
On the wild, lonely coast of Western Australia, two thrillseeking and barely adolescent boys fall into the enigmatic thrall of veteran big-wave surfer Sando.

Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival  by Norman Ollestad
Norman Ollestad was thrust into the world of surfing and competitive downhill skiing by the intense, charismatic father he both idolized and resented. At age eleven, he was the only survivor after his father dies in a distant winter mountain.  (I picked up this book from the cover showing Ollestad, looking no more than 3 years old, piggy-backing on his surfing father.)

Peak by Roland Smith
A fourteen-year-old boy attempts to be the youngest person to reach the top of Mount Everest.

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beach 
War seen through the eyes of a boy soldier in Sierra Leone.

Ada Blackjack : A True Story of Survival in The Arctic by Jennifer Niven
A true story of a young Inuit woman who survived six months alone on a desolate, uninhabited Arctic island.

Then, the ultimate escape would be about surviving in imagined worlds like in Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, Ender’s Game, and Life of Pi, but that's for another day.

Megumi L.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

National Book Festival 2014

You won’t have to worry if it rains!

For all you author groupies out there, you may be expecting the National Book Festival around mid-late September. But this year, the date and venue have changed. Because of the new irrigation system put in by the National Park Service, there is not enough space available for all the tents required, so they are moving to a new place and a new time: August 30, 2014 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Although it  will only be open for one day, you can visit from 10AM-10PM so there is more than enough room and time to see all your favorite authors.

No matter where or when the event is held, you can still see all the authors that have amazed, intrigued and lured you into the library (hopefully). Here's a preview some authors that you may not be familiar with:
For an up close and personal involvement you may be interested in volunteering, as many librarians do, email and ask about volunteering.

Want to know how to get there and other questions: FAQ

For the schedule and more information than you know what to do with have a look at the National Book Festival site.

Whomever you decide to visit, you won’t be sorry to make the trip. See you at the National Book Festival on August 30, 2014, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 10am-10pm.

lisa n.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What is Your Favorite Book?

Picture of a doe facing the camera.
I got that "deer in the headlights" look.
A customer asked me that question recently while I was helping her at the Information Desk. You might think it would be easy for a librarian to answer, but I dread this question. I sat looking at her for quite a few seconds like a deer caught in the headlights while I briefly considered (and dismissed as not being a “favorite”) all the titles scrolling across my mind. What criteria should I use—best writing? best characters? best plot? most thought provoking? something I would want to read again?  My customer finally told me to “forget it” since I probably started looking panicked as my eyes glazed over. Or because it was obvious that I couldn’t look things up in the catalog for her and think about that question at the same time.

Every book I read at just the right time becomes a favorite. At least, until I read the next one at just the right time. Favorite, for me, does not necessarily mean I want to read it again. There are not many books that I re-read because I usually find myself skipping paragraphs—even pages—since I already know the details. The most notable exceptions to this are the Harry Potter series (I used to re-read all the books every time a new one was published. Yes, my social life was lacking in those years.) and anything in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. (There are a LOT of Discworld books. Use this guide for suggestions on how to tackle them.) Another exception is Code Name Verity by ElizabethWein —a book that completely changes your perceptions of the first half as you read the second half. I want to read it again so I can fully appreciate just how well the author sets up the details to deliver the gut-wrenching jolt in the second half. 
cover image of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowlingcover image of Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

My customer’s question had me thinking long after she left the library. I read so many booksand listen to so many audiobooks in so many different genres that I have a hard time remembering what I have read let alone sorting them into favorites. I thought that maybe I should decide on a few favorites so that I have an answer (or six) ready the next time someone asks.

I took a brief survey of my colleagues to find out what their favorite books are. Everyone had to hesitate for a few moments before answering. One person, like me, said that she has "favorites of the year or of the moment" that seem to be replaced with new favorites the more she reads. Here are some staff favorites from my branch:
What are your favorites?
Tina R

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Burning of Washington

This summer marks the bicentenary of the burning of the White House by British troops on August 24, 1814.  I must say I never learned about this episode in history lessons at my British school, but when I moved to the Washington area people often teased me about it when they heard my accent.  While the reasons for the War of 1812 seem obscure today, the humiliation of the successful attack on the nation’s capital apparently still stings.  

The war of 1812 began with a series of naval battles before moving inland.  After defeating American forces at the Battle of Bladensburg the British surged into Washington unopposed.  President Madison and his wife Dolley fled the capital with just a couple of hours to spare.  Dolley carried with her the famous Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, saving it from the flames.  Their departure was so hasty that they left the table in the White House dining room set for dinner.  The British officers made themselves at home and enjoyed the meal intended for the President’s family before setting fire to the building.  But President Madison was able to return to Washington just a few days later as the British returned to their ships and sailed to Baltimore. 

Americans much prefer to remember the successful defense of Baltimore at Fort McHenry in September, a victory that inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star-Spangled Banner.  By the close of 1814 the war concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on Christmas Eve.  The British were glad to be rid of the American distraction so they could focus on their main enemy, Napoleon.  Our British history lessons may have neglected the burning of Washington, but we certainly learnt about the great victory over Napoleon!  The decisive Battle of Waterloo was fought six months later on June 18, 1815, just 50 miles from Ghent.

Learn more about the War of 1812 and the burning of Washington with these resources:
A number of local communities plan commemorative events:
There is an interesting Montgomery County connection to the events of 1814.  The tiny town of Brookeville became capital city for a day when President Madison sought shelter there.  Read an account of Brookeville’s brief brush with history at The Dabbler and check out the town’s planned celebrations.

Rita T.