Thursday, November 21, 2013

Jeanne's Thanksgiving-It's my party and I'll cook if I want to!

Because my birthday is at the very end of November, we have always celebrated it on Thanksgiving. What better time to have friends and family over and have all your favorite dishes!  For me it has also always meant being thankful for my garden: having the good health to work in the sun and the dirt and bringing as much as possible of the harvest to the table.

I’ve never raised my own turkey and I follow the directions on the bird as closely as possible. As far as the rest of the meal, I like to do things my own way. I love looking through cookbooks at Samuels and gathering recipes, but I always seem to change them a bit, just to suit me.

I start making the gravy early in the morning a few days before Thanksgiving. If it sits in the refrigerator for a day or two, the grease can rise to the surface and be skimmed off.  The best results come from roasting necks and wings and any other spare parts at 350°. A dear friend of my mother shared that secret with me. Once they’re golden brown, boil them with a bouillon cube or two and enough water to cover.  After an hour or so, I add celery, carrots, onion, garlic and as many herbs as I can gather from the garden. Parsley, rosemary, thyme, tarragon and at least one bay leaf all get thrown in the pot and boiled for at least two hours, making sure to add water to keep covered. When the turkey broth has cooled, it can be strained and set in the refrigerator to wait for the turkey and its pan drippings on Thanksgiving Day and made into gravy.

The green beans can also be made ahead and reheated, but there is no canned mushroom soup in my recipe.  My father taught me this recipe when I was a child and it is still my favorite.  I’ve been very lucky to always grow my own beans, but frozen will be tasty, too. Briefly boil them, rinse in cool water and set aside. In a skillet melt some butter and sauté lots of garlic. When the garlic is barely golden add some fresh, sliced mushrooms. When the mushrooms are cooked, add fresh parsley, the beans and a pinch of salt and heat until everything is warm.

There must also be sweet potatoes.  I’ve grown them once with no success at all, but fresh ones are plentiful this time of year. They are easy to bake in the oven and this can also be done ahead of time.  When they are cool enough to peel and slice, put them in a buttered pan with sliced apples, of course locally grown, and dot with butter.  If a family member insists, brown sugar and cinnamon may also be added.

Some of my other Thanksgiving favorites have been found in many of the beautiful cookbooks at Samuels Library.

The Sweet Potato Cookbook by Lyniece N. Talmadge
This is a unique collection of more than one hundred tantalizing recipes for dishes to serve at breakfast, lunch, or dinner with chapters on appetizers, beverages, soups, main courses, side dishes, and even desserts.

Seriously Simple Holidays by Diane R. Worthington
This book will show you how to entertain with style and ease by keeping things simple with wonderful, festive recipes and ideas for hosing the perfect holiday gathering.

Too Many Tomatoes, Squash, Beans and Other Good Things by Lois M. Landau
An unusual and classic cookbook with hundreds of savory and delectable recipes that will help every gardener find ample ways to make use of the riches the garden provides.

Gifts from a Country Kitchen by Marion Ham
This is a beautiful collection of over 160 recipes that have been handed down through generations of American home cooks.

Faye Levy’s International Vegetable Cookbook
The author has combed the kitchens of the world to find inspired, mouth-watering – yet still healthful – ways to prepare vegetables.  It is the definitive volume on vegetable cooking by the award-winning author featuring hundreds of wholesome internationally-flavored recipes.

Southern Living Home Cooking Basics
This lavishly illustrated guide to all things culinary offers a colorfully compelling approach for cooks to try the delights of the American southern table.

Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer
This new edition continues the vision of American cooking that began with the first edition of Joy. It is still the book you can turn to for perfect Beef Wellington and Baked Macaroni and Cheese. It's also the book where you can now find Turkey on the Grill, Spicy Peanut Sesame Noodles, and vegetarian meals.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Movie Lists - Television on DVD

You may know that Samuels has a great movie collection, but did you realize we also have a large selection of TV shows available on DVD?  Here are a few of the most popular shows you can check out:

Ally McBeal
Calista Flockhart became a poster girl for the '90s for her role as the title character, a young lawyer at a firm in Boston. Ally McBeal contained a winning mixture of drama, romance, and quirky humor.

Big Bang Theory
Revenge of the Geeks! Four brilliant but socially awkward scientists meet the beautiful and bubbly aspiring actress who lives across the hall. The results are hilariously entertaining.  Bazinga!       

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Series creator Joss Whedon, who went from cult figure to superstar after directing Marvel’s The Avengers, said he wanted Buffy the Vampire Slayer to be “high school as a horror movie.” The concept went over well and even led to the spin-off series Angel.  

Call the Midwife
Fans of Downton Abbey should check out Call the Midwife, another hit BBC period drama. Set in the 1950s and centering around a group of midwives and nuns working in a lower class section of London, the show has also gained a large stateside following.

Doc Martin
British comedian and actor Martin Clunes plays Dr. Martin Ellingham, a spin-off of his character from the movie Saving Grace. Having relocated from London to the small town of Portwenn, the surly doctor must adjust to village life.  

Downton Abbey
Samuels has all three seasons of the British period drama that has taken America by storm in the past several years. Downton Abbey is so addictive, you’ll probably want to binge-watch an entire season in one marathon session. 

Foyle’s War
Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle works on solving a variety of criminal cases in Hastings, England as World War II rages at home and on the front. Highly recommended for mystery lovers.  

Game of Thrones
Based on George R.R. Martin’s fantasy book series, Game of Thrones is currently one of the most popular shows on television. The Emmy-winning series has been praised for its complex storylines and themes.     

Riveting legal drama JAG (which stands for Judge Advocate General) follows a team of Navy lawyers as they investigate, prosecute, and defend criminal cases involving military personnel.     

Little House on the Prairie
Looking for something the whole family can enjoy? Look no further than Little House on the Prairie, a show based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved book series about her upbringing in the Midwest during the late 19thcentury.

Before directing Mission: Impossible III, Super 8, and Star Trek Into Darkness, J.J. Abrams was one of the masterminds behind Lost, a suspenseful series about a group of plane crash survivors stranded on an island.

This comedy-drama about two private investigators was notable for the chemistry between the two leads, Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd.  Moonlighting was also Willis’s first hit before he moved on to movie stardom.  

Six Feet Under
Six Feet Under is marked by the same dark humor as series creator Alan Ball’s Academy Award-winning American Beauty. The action centers on the dysfunctional Fisher clan as they run the family funeral home business.

Upstairs Downstairs
A precursor to Downton Abbey. Upstairs Downstairs was a popular and critically-acclaimed British drama from the 1970s that followed the interactions between the servants and an upper-class family living in a townhouse in London.

The Waltons
Another classic for all age groups, The Waltons ran from 1971 to 1981 and was set right here in Virginia. Viewers were drawn to the fortitude of the Walton family as they faced hardships during the Great Depression and World War II.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Helping your Home: Everything from Remodeling to DIY

The Family Handyman: Refresh your Home by Readers Digest
Need to revive old trim? Quiet a noisy garage door? Fix wobbly outlets? These are all really easy to do to refresh your home. Instead of hiring expensive contractors and landscapers, this helpful guide will take you step by step through a wide range of do-it-yourself ideas for your home, garage and yard.
This book contains 500 simple projects and tips to help you save money, update and renovate your home. It focuses more on home repairs and simple tutorials that are necessary when fixing things such as plumbing, electrical fixtures, landscaping and even a few tips for your car.

Money-Wise Makeovers by Jean Nayar
In this book, Nayar shows the reader different ideas for updating your home. She focuses on the major areas of the home, such as living spaces, dining rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms.
“Life changes, and sometime a house needs to change, too. Maybe you’ve moved into an existing house that guzzles energy and drains your resources. Or maybe you’ve simple outgrown the home you have, but don’t want to leave it. In any case, there’s no reason to let an imperfect home compromise the way you live. In fact, there’s hardly been a better time to upgrade and existing home and improve its value without excessive spending.”

Period Details by Martin and Judith Miller
Period Details is a sourcebook that teaches you about the past of architecture. Although it doesn’t have any DIY or remodeling tutorials inside, it is a great book to help the reader come up with ideas, paint colors, and even wallpaper designs.
Miller states in the opening comments of his book: “The only way you can decorate for today is to know what the past is like. It’s like growing up – if you don’t learn from experience, you don’t ever find out, and you fall into a pattern of mistakes. Although architects and designers are required to learn about the past in school they don’t necessarily put that knowledge into practice. Therefore, you need constantly to educate your eyes as I do, by looking at paintings, at furniture, and at buildings.  Visit museums, read books and magazines, and all your life gather ideas.”

Affordable Remodel by Fernando Pages Ruiz
Affordable remodel provides a guide for those who want to improve and enhance the value of their homes, whether by planning and overseeing the remodel or by doing the work themselves. Ruiz, shares his hard-won secrets in this book by revealing a full range of money-saving options available to homeowners today.  With the power of insider knowledge, you too will find ways to achieve the home of your dreams without breaking your budget.

Not so Big Remodeling by Sarah Susanka
Susanka is spearheading a movement that will re-define the way Americans remodel their homes. She says in this book: “I’ve worked with thousands of individuals, couples, and families over the past two decades, so I knew exactly what was needed to keep costs down and livability up on my own house. Although a remodeled house is rarely as personal, architecturally speaking, as a house you design from scratch, there are lots of small things you can do that will make it much more closely aligned with your visions for a dream home than you’ve probably ever thought possible. My goal with this book is to show you how to make a little remodeling go a long way. In fact, the informing attitude is one of ‘Keep it simple.’”
Throughout the book, Susanka gives floor plan examples of houses with before and after photos, as well as a constant stream of ideas that will help the reader begin to imagine their own dream house.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Reading Lists - All About Africa

White Dog Fell from the Sky by Eleanor Lincoln Morse - In apartheid South Africa in 1977, medical student Isaac Muthethe is forced to flee his country after witnessing a friend murdered by white members of the South African Defense Force. He is smuggled into Botswana, where he is hired as a gardener by a young American woman, Alice Mendelssohn, who has abandoned her Ph.D. studies to follow her husband to Africa. When Isaac goes missing and Alice goes searching for him, what she finds will change her life and inextricably bind her to this sunburned, beautiful land.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese - Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.
 Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles--and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith - This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

The Sum of Her Parts by Alan Dean Foster - Ingrid and Whispr are hunted fugitives bound together by a thread: a data-storage thread made of a material that cannot exist, yet somehow does. Their quest to learn its secrets—and, in Whispr’s case, sell them to the highest bidder—has brought them to South Africa’s treacherous Namib desert. Beyond its dangers waits a heavily guarded research facility that promises answers, if they can survive long enough to get there. But that won’t be easy, not with Napun Molé on their trail. They’ve already escaped the assassin twice, and as far as Molé is concerned, finishing them off isn’t just a job anymore . . . it’s personal.

The Night Ranger by Alex Berenson - Four friends, recent college graduates, travel to Kenya to work at a giant refugee camp for Somalis. They get more than they bargained for. Bandits hijack them. They wake up in a hut, hooded, bound, no food or water. Hostages. As a personal favor, John Wells is asked to try to find them, but he does so reluctantly. East Africa isn’t his usual playing field. And when he arrives, he finds that the truth behind the kidnappings is far more complex than he imagined.

Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell - When dashing American explorer Ral Conrath invites Jane and her father to join an expedition deep into West Africa, she can hardly believe her luck. Africa is every bit as exotic and fascinating as she has always imagined, but Jane quickly learns that the lush jungle is full of secrets—and so is Ral Conrath. When danger strikes, Jane finds her hero, the key to humanity’s past, and an all-consuming love in one extraordinary man: Tarzan of the Apes. Jane is the first version of the Tarzan story written by a woman and authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. Its publication marks the centennial of the original Tarzan of the Apes

Finally and Forever by Robin Jones Gunn - What was she thinking? Katie Weldon wonders if she was crazy to spontaneously fly off to Africa on a mission trip. Suddenly she is dealing with a new culture, a world she's never experienced---and Eli, a friend who is quickly becoming much more. It's all overwhelming ... and exciting. As her life turns topsy-turvy, however, she begins to think this might be exactly what she needs. Living in this new and captivating place, one thing she knows for sure: anything might be possible. Finally and Forever is the final book in the Katie Weldon Series.

The Lower River by Paul Theroux - When he was a young man, Ellis Hock spent four of the best years of his life with the Peace Corps in Malawi. So when his wife of forty-two years leaves him, he decides to return to the village where he was stationed in search of the happiness he’d been missing since he left. But what he finds is not what he expected. The school he built is a ruin, the church and clinic are gone, and poverty and apathy have set in among the people. They remember Ellis and welcome him with open arms. Soon, however, their overtures turn menacing; they demand money and refuse to let him leave the village. Is his new life an escape or a trap? 

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn - Paris, 1923. The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even among Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather's savanna manor house until gossip subsides. Amidst the wonders—and dangers—of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for—and what she can no longer live without.

The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig - As a lawyer in a large Manhattan firm, just shy of making partner, Clementine Evans has finally achieved almost everything she’s been working towards—but now she’s not sure it’s enough. But when the family gathers for her grandmother Addie’s ninety-ninth birthday, a relative lets slip hints about a long-buried family secret, leading Clemmie on a journey into the past that could change everything. . . .From the inner circles of British society to the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the red-dirt hills of Kenya, the never-told secrets of a woman and a family unfurl. 

Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir (Non-fiction) - A gripping memoir that reads like a political thriller--the story of Malika Oufkir's turbulent and remarkable life. Born in 1953, Malika Oufkir was the eldest daughter of General Oufkir, the King of Morocco's closest aide. Adopted by the king at the age of five, Malika spent most of her childhood and adolescence in the seclusion of the court harem, one of the most eligible heiresses in the kingdom, surrounded by luxury and extraordinary privilege. Then, on August 16, 1972, her father was arrested and executed after an attempt to assassinate the king. Malika, her five younger brothers and sisters. and her mother were immediately imprisoned in a desert penal colony. A heartrending account in the face of extreme deprivation and the courage with which one family faced its fate, Stolen Lives is an unforgettable story of one woman's journey to freedom.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Reading Lists - It’s a mystery, my dear Watson.

With the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, Scotland Yard and Jack the Ripper, the Victorian Age (1837-1901) was not as straight-laced as we may tend to believe. Sherlock Holmes may be the best known detective of this time, but now he is certainly in very good company.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
The moonstone is a yellow diamond of unearthly beauty brought from India and given to Rachel Verrinder as an eighteenth birthday present, but the fabled diamond carries with it a terrible curse.

 The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry
While the Ellison girls were out paying calls and drinking tea like proper Victorian ladies, a maid in their household was strangled to death. The quiet and young Inspector Pitt investigates the scene and finds no one above suspicion. His intense questioning causes many a composed facade to crumble.

Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas
This atmospheric debut set on the gritty streets of Victorian London introduces detective Cyrus Barker and his assistant, Thomas Llewelyn, as they work to solve the gruesome murder of a young scholar in London's Jewish ghetto.

A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch
Charles Lenox, Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer, likes nothing more than to relax in his private study with a cup of tea, a roaring fire and a good book. But when his lifelong friend Lady Jane asks for his help, Lenox cannot resist the chance to unravel the  mysterious death of her friend.

Mr. Timothy by Louis Bayard
Seeking to gain independence from his benefactor, Ebenezer Scrooge, Timothy Cratchit loses himself in the underworld of 1860s London, where the discovery of two murdered girls prompts him to protect a third would-be victim.

The Yard by Alex Grecian
Suffering public contempt after the Metropolitan Police's failure to capture Jack the Ripper, Walter Day, a member of Victorian London's recently formed "Murder Squad” partners with Scotland Yard's first forensic pathologist to track down a killer who is targeting their colleagues. (It’s a “violent cesspool of squalid depravity” out there!)

  Murder as a Fine Art David Morrell
Thomas De Quincey is the major suspect in a series of ferocious mass murders identical to ones that terrorized London forty-three years earlier. Desperate to clear his name he is aided by his devoted daughter Emily and a pair of determined Scotland Yard detectives.

And if you like a little romance with your suspense, try these:

Don’t Look Back by Amanda Quick
Together, private inquiry agent Lavinia Lake and her sometime-partner, Tobias March, undertake a tantalizing investigation that leads them from the glittering ballrooms of the ton to London's seediest taverns.

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Sir Edward Grey collapses and dies at his London home. Determined to bring her husband's murderer to justice, Lady Julia engages the enigmatic Nicholas Brisbane to help her investigate Edward's demise.

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander
When Emily's dashing young husband died on safari soon after their wedding, she felt little grief. After all, she barely knew him. Now, nearly two years later, she discovers that Philip was murdered. In the quiet corridors of the British Museum, one of her husband's favorite places, amid priceless ancient statues, she uncovers dark, dangerous secrets.