Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Janet's Five Gift Ideas for December

Hanukkah Haiku by Harriet Ziefert (Blue Apple Books, $16.95)
Beautifully illustrated by Karla Gudeon, Hanukkah Haiku is a classic for all young children. One candle and one haiku poem is added on each page, ending with a fully lit menorah and the candle lighting blessings.

Gathering Sparks by Howard Schwartz (Roaring Brook Press, $16.99)
Perhaps the most touchingly simple explanation of tikkun olam (repair of the world) available to children. Award-winning illustrator Kristina Swarner adds to the poignancy of this book with her unworldly illuminations.

The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Inner Peace: The Essential Life and Teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Hampton Roads Publishing, $12.95)
A perfect small volume to carry and open to any page any minute of the day for inspiration and instruction.

Jewish Fathers: A Legacy of Love, photographs by Lloyd Wolf, interviews by Paula Wolfson (Jewish Lights Publishing, $30.00)
Autographed by the author, a wonderful present to any Jewish father or other. Filled with photographs to kvell over, this book celebrates the true meaning of mensch.

Collect Raindrops by Nikki McClure (Abrams, $29.95)
An oversized volume of Nikki McClure's beautiful prints with one word titles on each page. A gift for anyone who needs a moment of calm.

December 2010, Janet Elfant

Amy’s Five Children’s Books for Getting into the Spirit of Snow

The Snow Day by Komako Sakai (Arthur Levine, $16.99)
Not to be confused with Ezra Jack Keats’ Snowy Day (see below), this book tells a similar tale of a young child who spends a long and glorious snow day at home with her mom, waiting for the snowstorm to end so she can go outside and make snow dumplings and snow monsters. Best line in a children’s book: “Mama, we are all alone in the world,” and that sums up this quiet and beautifully illustrated book.

Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton (Houghton Mifflin, $16.00)
If you love Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne, you will also love Katy the snowplow, who’s finally given a chance to prove herself when the city is buried in snow. The story is simple, but the illustrations are loaded with details about machinery and map-like details of the city. Burton has a knack for bringing life and beauty to old-fashioned machines and a respect for a simple way of life.

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs (Dragonfly Books, $6.99)
What would happen if your snowman came to life? What would you feed him for dinner? Ice cubes, of course!

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
(Viking Press, $6.99 Board, $16.99 Hardcover)

This classic book tells the story of Peter, a young boy waking up to see his neighborhood transformed by the snow, and follows him on his explorations.

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner
(Dial Books for Young Readers, $6.99 Board, $15.99 Hardcover)

This story imagines that when you go to bed, all the snowmen of the neighborhood get together for a party, drink ice-cold cocoa, have snowball fights and go sledding. It’s a big hit with the kiddos.

December 2010, Amy Vaccarello

Five Books That Made Maleka Want to Eat

Anyone that knows me knows that I love to eat. I also love to cook. I LOVE reading about eating, especially about foods from around the world. Some of my favorite scenes in novels/memoirs are of food preparation or feasts with all kinds of people attending. Here’s a list of books that have excellent eating scenes, all of which made me want to bust out some utensils as soon as I was done reading and enjoy a hearty meal.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (Penguin, $15.00)
I know, I know. This book has a lot of hype already. But I cannot deny the food scenes in Italy. The main character of Liz sitting in the middle of Italy eating fresh asparagus and eggs or chomping on the best pizza described on the planet is simply amazing.

Made From Scratch by Jenna Woginrich (Storey, $12.95)
Her combination of dark chocolate and awesome coffee and her descriptions of fresh pasta and homemade bread made my day.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (Mariner, $14.95)
Two words: Indian food.

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel (Ten Speed Pr., $24.99)
This is simply a fantastic book. It presents photo shoots of families from all over the world posed with one week's worth of all the food and drink they consume. It is interesting to see the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in most of the poorer families' households versus a huge amount of processed and junk foods in the richer households. I loved the photo spread of what people ate for breakfast all over the world. Savory noodles, yum!

Stealing Buddha's Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen (Penguin, $14.00)
Bich is like me - she likes reading about food too. Her memoir is packed with scenes from her childhood and adolescence where she sits cuddling a book and reading long passages about food in Little House on the Prairie, dreams about eating "American food" which involves mostly processed cheese product, and eats in the kitchen with her beloved grandmom who fries thin potatoes for her almost every afternoon and serves up traditional Vietnamese soups. I was craving both traditional Vietnamese dishes AND American junk food after reading this.

December 2010, Maleka Fruean

Erica’s Five Seasonal Book & Beverage Pairings

It’s cold, folks, and I am like a bear. I want to sleep and eat—not necessarily in that order—and there’s nothing quite like a good bedtime story to kick off my annual winter hibernation. I also like a nice glass of warm milk (preferably 80 or 100 proof) before I hunker down in my cave. But be warned, kiddies, this list, like many a trendy Philadelphia restaurant, is strictly BYOB.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris (Little, Brown & Co., $16.99)
There is something very elf-like about Sedaris. Maybe it’s his wacky, little Seven Dwarves reading voice, or the elfin mischief suffusing his prose. So it seems only natural that he did time working as an elf named Crumpet at the SantaLand in Macy’s Herald Square, and that he spins one heck of a yarn about it.
Recommended pairing: Evan Williams Egg Nog, available at any fine state store—oh, I’m sorry, I meant Wine and Spirits Shoppe.

Apples I Have Eaten by Jonathan Gerken (Chronicle, $14.95)
Beautifully photographed apples appear whole, then halved, in each spread. Totally porn for apples—if apples were into that kind of thing.
Recommended pairing: Hot apple cider. High Point Café makes a mean one.

The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket (McSweeney’s, $11.00)
It’s a latke, damn it, not a Christmas donut! Why do people insist on making it something that it’s not? Snicket reminds us that unfortunate events sometimes befall foodstuffs, too—not just the hapless Baudelaire orphans.
Recommended pairing: Egg nog latke—erm, latte. Your local Wawa makes decent egg nog, believe it or not. Pour some of this into your morning coffee then make that shushing sound like you have an espresso machine.

Awkward Family Photos by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack (Three Rivers Press, $15.00)
It’s not really polite to make fun of your own family during the holidays, so thankfully Awkward Family Photos lets you make fun of other peoples’. A gnarlier collection of feathered hair and tacky sweaters ne’er was seen.
Recommended pairing: Mulled wine. I don’t have a good recipe for this so I suggest asking a British person. She can also tell you what wassail means.

The Elements of Style, Illustrated, by William Strunk Jr., E.B. White, and Maria Kalman (Penguin, $16.00)
Kalman’s quirky watercolor illustrations transform this style manual into a charmingly surreal meditation on life. To quote White: “Your whole duty as a writer is to please and satisfy yourself, and the true writer always plays to an audience of one. Start sniffing the air, or glancing at the Trend Machine, and you are as good as dead, although you may make a nice living.” Advice not just for the writer, but for the human being.
Recommended pairing: Champagne, of course, liquid joy—the only way to weather a cold winter’s nap and spring into a new year.

December 2010, Erica David