Thursday, September 29, 2011

Amy’s Five Picks for Home Canning and Preservation

Have you always wanted to make your own jams, pickles, and tomato sauces? Are you overloaded at home with produce from your CSA or backyard garden? Check out these books below, for everything you would ever need to know about preserving, and enjoy the harvest all winter long. These would also make great gifts! Pair it up with canning supplies, which can be found next door at the Weavers Way Co-op. Happy canning!

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It and Other Cooking Projects by Karen Solomon (Ten Speed Press, $24.99)
This would be a great starter book on the subject, and has simple instructions for all kinds of foods: jams, pickles, condiments, basic pasta dough, homemade marshmallows (which are amazing), and making beverages like limoncello and chai.

Put 'em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling by Sherri Brooks Vinton (Storey Books, $19.95)
This book comes highly recommended by canning bloggers. It seems to offers the traditional recipes and techniques along with more modern treatments like cucumber sake and pickled spring ramps. It’s also gorgeous, and if you are looking for a gift, I’d choose this one.

The Joy of Pickling: 250 Flavor-packed Flavor-packed Recipes for Vegetables and More from Garden or Market (Revised Edition) by Linda Ziedrich (Harvard Common Press, $18.95)
This is the only book you need on pickling.

Putting Food By by Janet Greene & Ruth Hertzberg (Plume, $17.00)
This is an essential component to any home canner’s library. It’s been around for over 30 years, and was recently revised and updated for the 5th edition. It covers all matters of home preservation, including a section on curing meats and building root cellars.

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz (Chelsea Green, $25.00)
This is a great resource if you are at all curious about the benefits of fermented live-culture foods in your diet, and how exactly to go about safely making foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, kombucha, and ginger beer. My mouth is watering as we speak.

*Also useful:
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 Delicious And Creative Recipes for Today by Judi Kingry (Robert Rose, Inc., $24.95)
While a little generic, you absolutely can’t go wrong with having this book on hand. However, I do believe that the selections above are better choices.

September 2011, Amy Vaccarella

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Erica’s Five Books: Best of the Tattooed Ladies

Don’t let the trashy covers put you off. It’s a design thing that all the publishing kids are doing these days: slapping a scantily clad white chick with tattoos and/or ridiculous weapons on the front cover of urban fantasy novels. It usually sends my eyes rolling far into the back of my head because it’s, like, way off-putting. I mean, I know that urban fantasy is a genre like any other, and like any other it has its clichés, and that the clichés can get hecka annoying, like when the first person female narrator prior to meeting her smokin’-hot-sexy-pants vampire/were/fae/angel/demon mate says stuff like “I’m 5’ 10”, 125 lbs with honey-blond hair, but with some eye-liner on I can pass for exotic,” but these fulsome covers make it impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff. But, take heart, dear reader, I have done the dirty work for you. I have slogged through these mass market UF series with their tawdry covers and selected the roses among thorns. Yeah, somebody had to do it.

Moon-Called by Patricia Briggs (Ace, $7.99)
Tattooed Lady: Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson. Don’t let the nickname fool you. Mechanic-by-day, bad-A-by-night, Mercy Thompson is more likely to pop you with a crow bar than show you mercy if her mysteriously keen sense of smell tells her that you’re up to no good.

Magic Bites by Illona Andrews (Ace, $7.99)
Tattooed Lady: Kate Daniels. Husband and wife team “Illona Andrews” gives us a brilliant UF yarn set in a world where magic and technology compete. When magic flares up, cars crap out, guns don’t fire and sometimes all hell breaks loose. Kate Daniels is the brash, sword-wielding Han Solo of this world gone topsy-turvy.

Dark Fever by Karen Marie Moning (Dell, $7.99)
Tattooed Lady: MacKayla “Mac” Lane. Steeped in Irish folklore and set predominantly in modern-day Dublin, Dark Fever follows Mac as she struggles to solve her sister’s murder, acquire a reading knowledge of Gaelic, and keep from running afoul of the immortal fae, V’lane, who’s been known to hold human women in sexual thrall.

Grave Witch by Kaylana Price (Roc, $7.99)
Tattooed Lady: Alex Craft. Alex is a witch who’s grave sight allows her to talk to the dead, and Death in particular, who happens to be a blue-jean-wearing hottie. Brings new meaning to the phrase “a date with Death.”

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost (Avon, $7.00)
Tattooed Lady: Cat Crawfield. People keep bringing up the B-word when they talk about this series and when I say B-word I mean Buffy, as in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It probably has something to do with the fact that the heroine kicks some serious buttowski—and it can’t hurt that, Bones, the lead vampire, has a certain tortured British malaise that puts one in mind of Buffy’s vampire (sort of) love Spike.

September 2011, Erica David

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Jen's Five Books of Unconventional Princesses

These include both picture books and middle grade books.

The Princesses Have a Ball by Teresa Bateman, illustrated by Lynne Cravath (Albert Whitman & Company, $6.95)
It's a conventional tale: twelve princesses who disappear at night and show up every morning having worn their shoes to pieces. However, these (impressively diverse) sisters aren't particularly conventional...

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (Bloomsbury, $7.95)
The prince is destined to choose his partner from Miri's village, so all the girls must learn how to be proper princesses. But one can learn other things at Princess Academy...

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko (Annick Press, $6.95)
Prince Robert thinks Princess Elizabeth should be a proper princess and dress impeccably. But when a dragon attacks, who goes off to rescue whom?

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (Sandpiper, $6.99)
Anyone might run away from home to avoid an unwanted betrothal, but even the dragons agree that a proper princess would never run away and volunteer to work for a dragon...

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis, illustrated by Suzanne DeSimone (Aladdin, $14.99)
And, finally, someone who does want to be a proper princess ... even if some people think he shouldn't. A triumph of the power of acceptance over bullying.

September 2011, Jennifer Sheffield

Friday, September 23, 2011

Janet’s Five Picks In Honor of Hurricane Irene

At 10:45p.m, thanks to Mt. Airy Patch, I realized that there was a tornado watch in Chestnut Hill and vicinity between 10:30p.m. and 11:00p.m. I called to my daughter who attempted, unsuccessfully, to round up our dog and two cats, and we retired to the basement. Later, I was taught a lesson about the true diversity of our Mt. Airy village. Some of us slept in the basement. Some of us slept on our third floor surrounded by large trees lulled to sleep by the branches blowing against the windows. Some of us prepared for a disaster, collecting water, canned goods, batteries and all types of battery operated devices. Some of us went for two hour hikes in the woods, admiring the rising water and snapping limbs. The following five picks reflect diversity, having no relationship to one another other than I happened to read parts or all of them in the past month:

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman (Scribner, $27.00)
Available for sale this October, The Dovekeepers is a fictional account of the seven survivors of Massada, masterfully researched and exquisitely written.

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (Penguin, $19.99)
Another young adult lesson about locating one's true self amidst the chaos of changing family and home life.

Rumi: The Fire of Love by Nahal Tajadod (Duckworth, $16.00)
An account of Rumi's life, time and works.

The Magic School Bus Inside a Hurricane by Joanna Cole (Scholastic, $6.99)
A self explanatory choice.

Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer Holland (Workman, $13.95)
A second reminder (see my August list)... this book is now second on the Indie bestseller list.

September 2011, Janet Elfant

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Poetic Profile: Dilruba Ahmed

1) How would you describe your poetry?
That's a tough question!  Many of the poems in my first book deal with a familial and cultural history marked by rifts in place and time.  Some are narrative, some are more lyrical.  I write in free verse and use given forms at times, too.

2) How does poetry fit into your everyday life?

The way that poetry fits into my everyday life varies from week to week--reading and writing poetry is essential, of course, and I try to do as much of that as possible!  I also enjoy attending readings and talking shop with friends who are writers.  I also recently began teaching a poetry workshop, which has been fantastic and is teaching me ways to read my work and that of others more deeply.

3) What poets and/or authors inspire you?

There are many to name!  Agha Shahid Ali, Elizabeth Bishop, Louise Gluck, Yusef Komunyakaa, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Theodore Roethke....

4) How does the community of Philadelphia play a part in your poetry?

I'm relatively new to the area, so it's been fun getting know the city.  My parents, who are from Bangladesh, lived in Philadelphia for many years when they first moved to the U.S., so we have a good deal of family history here.  I grew up in other parts of the state and in Ohio, but because of that history (and the fact that I was born here!), Philadelphia feels like a place with important roots for me. 

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it.

I recently read WAIT by Alison Stine, which is a wonderful book--dark and powerful, disturbing and lovely.  Stine's poems build mystery by revealing and withholding--by complicating a story while telling it.  Her collection was the winner of the 2011 Brittingham Prize run by the University of Wisconsin Press.

Dilruba Ahmed is the author of Dhaka Dust (Graywolf, July 2011), winner of the 2010 Bakeless Literary Prize for poetry, selected by Arthur Sze and awarded by the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Ahmed’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Cream City Review, New England Review, New Orleans Review, Drunken Boat, and The Normal School. Her work also appears in Indivisible: Contemporary South Asian American Poetry. A writer, editor, and educator with roots in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Bangladesh, Ahmed holds BPhil and MAT degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and an MFA from Warren Wilson College.

Dilruba Ahmed and Bonnie MacAllister will be reading this Friday, September 9, 2011, at 7:00pm. Please come check them out!