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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

SBPL Mobile

SBPL Mobile Page
Check out the new SBPL Mobile web page. You will find it by visiting and  clicking on the button SBPL Mobile.

Use this website from your mobile device when you want to find a book or check your account in our online catalog.

The library’s Events Calendar is on SBPL Mobile. Find events and register online.

You can also read the Compass, our bimonthly newsletter. Programs for adults, teens and children are here along with library news.

This SBPL Mobile gives you quick access to our downloadable eBooks and audiobooks. If you need help logging in or downloading call the Information Desk at 732-329-4000 x 7286.

SBPL Mobile has an easy link to all of our databases. They give you free access to magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias, language learning and more.

Using your library on the go has never been easier.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Recap of Adult Summer Reading Party

We had our end-of-summer party last Wednesday, August 24 for the Novel Destinations adult reading program. The party is sponsored every year by the Friends of the South Brunswick Public Library and we thank them for providing for a delicious lunch of sandwiches and salads from Pierre’s and for the grand prize for the drawing. Over lunch, those that attended discussed the books that they read over the summer and ones that they were looking forward to reading this fall. The Help and the movie tie-in were the most well-liked of the summer. There were travel brochures that had been brought by Kuller Class A Travel for our travelogue programs this summer laid out in the tables for decoration and for conversation. The patron’s travel plans were also a popular topic of discussion.

At about 2:00, everyone moved to the other side of the Meeting Room where the International Food Tasting was set-up. There were place mats at every seat that had a spot for five samples to be placed. The five black licorice samples were out at each place, ready to be sampled. A description of the history and uses for licorice were given and the five samples from Australia (sweet), Finland (sweet), Holland (salty), America (sweet) and Italy (bitter) were tasted. The Finish licorice made by Panda and sold in specialty shops like Bon Apetit and Delicious Orchards was thought by the majority to be the favorite with it’s subtle flavor and soft texture. There were ice water and apple slices served to clean the palate between bites. The next item to taste was milk chocolate. There are so many choices in chocolate from around the world that it was difficult to narrow the samples down to just five choices. There was Elite from Israel, Cadbury Dairy Milk from England (now made by Hershey), an America Hershey bar, Italian Venchi Puro Cioccolato al Latte Superiore and a Nestle bar which is Swiss chocolate. The consensus was that the Elite chocolate from Israel was the favorite with a smooth, creamy texture. Also, the Hershey bar was preferred over the Nestle bar.

The third samples were Swiss-style cheeses. The Swiss make a cheese they call Emmentaler that is the official “Swiss Cheese” and can only be made outside of Switzerland by agreement of the Emmentaler cheese producers in Switzerland. That was the first sample tried – the Swiss Emmentaler. The other Swiss-style cheeses made in other countries were Jarlsberg, made in Norway; Tilsit made in Germany; Danish Fontina and a harder cheese, Reblevega, made in Spain. Jalsberg was the favorite.

The final food sampled were crackers, a logical segue after the cheese. There were two kinds of crackers included, water crackers which are made of just flour and water and soda or saltine crackers that have shortening, leavening and baking soda. Our familiar crackers today are descendants of the pilot cakes, sea biscuits and military hardtack from the Civil War when flour and water were mixed and baked to form a nutritious and ready to eat food that is advantageous for travel because of its long shelf life. The selections for the tasting were Osem Deli crackers from Israel, Dare Vinta crackers from Canada that had a poppy seed flavoring, Nabisco Premium Saltines from the U.S., Carr’s Table Water Crackers from the UK and Yarra Valley Crackerthins water crackers from Australia. This was perhaps not a fair comparison in that the Canadian and Australian crackers had other flavorings added so naturally they were the favorite and second favorite of the five.

A tally of the books read over the summer was discussed – the most prolific reader submitted sixteen entry forms all with reviews. Of the patron’s that attended the party, the reader with the most entries had submitted 15 entry forms, also with reviews. You can read the reviews that the readers submitted on the summer reading blog that you can find at from the link on our webpage at The event ended with a drawing for the runner up prize (a pick from the prize card) and the grand prize (a Barnes and Noble gift card) won by two patrons who submitted entry forms throughout the summer.

Thanks to all who participated in the summer reading program this year. Don’t forget you can still submit your vacation photos for the mural to through the month of September and the drawing for a Shutterfly gift card from those who submitted photos will be done early in October. The tentative theme for the 2012 summer reading program is about nighttime and the adult readers’ theme is “Between the Covers!” Look for information early 2012 and if you have any suggestions that might pertain to this theme, contact the programming person at

Friday, August 26, 2011

Baking is My Downfall

Someone should make me write:  "I must not bake," a thousand times.  Because when I bake, I eat.  And since I (usually) only bake what I love, this is a real dilemma:  how to bake without ending up looking like the Pillsbury dough boy.

Yesterday I took my 6 really, really ripe, half-way to black bananas (for maximum sweetness according to the recipe), and made Ultimate Banana Bread from Cook's Illustrated Magazine, July/August 2010.  I have to say, it was good.  And,  I took the result to work today - no tempting leftovers calling my name.

Ultimate Banana Bread served in the lovely ambiance of our staff room.

Using any of the publications from Chris Kimball's America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated Magazine empire almost invariably produces a good result because of several things.  First, they test exhaustively, second, they search for the absolute best flavor, and last, they provide meticulous directions.

Check out Baking Illustrated (all of the books in this blog are available in our Library).  Some of our family's faves:  cream biscuits and buttermilk biscuits, shortbread, pizza dough, pies - blueberry, peach and pumpkin, layer cakes - yellow, coconut and chocolate.  Unfailingly delicious.

Besides coming out with a great product, what you find with these recipes, is that you are learning great technique along the way.  Technique which you can then generalize to other, not so perfect recipes.  So you can cook from an ordinary recipe in a women's magazine and you can "correct" gaps, and use techniques so that you can get a better result than you would have by just following the recipe as stated.  An education in a book.

I love reliable cookbooks because certainty in cooking can be very comforting:  you put in the work, you follow the directions,  and you're rewarded with a positive result.  Would that everything in life were that straightforward!

Other library cookbooks I know and love are The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book,  Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible,  and Ann Byrn's The Cake Mix Doctor.

ATK's Family Baking Book is similar to Baking Illustrated, but with many more recipes and less background info. 

The Cake Bible is like a graduate course in baking:  in fact Beranbaum has a PhD in food science, and wrote her dissertation on cake baking.  Wondrous recipes, accessible if you have the time and patience, as well as a well appointed kitchen.  Without exception all the recipes I have tried work perfectly, from the Cordon Rose Cream Cheesecake, to the homemade Classic Rolled Fondant for a wedding cake.  This is the cookbook to turn to if you want to be creative and to impress.

At the other end of the difficulty spectrum is The Cake Mix Doctor.  These recipes utilize cake mixes with various add-ins to make above average, and foolproof cakes with little time investment.  Have tried many of these, notably the Chocolate Praline Cake, and Tennessee Jam Cake;  just stay away from any of the bars or aptly named gooey cakes.

As Bryn rightly states, you can get away with a cake mix, but don't even try to use premade frosting.  Just not worth the calories or effort.

Hope you make it  to the Library before the coming hurricane to pick up some cookbooks...and hope we have power so that we can bake and cook to our heart's content during the impending rough weather!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Free eBooks and Audiobooks

Do you listen to audiobooks while you cook? Maybe your commute to work is long and audiobooks make the trip more enjoyable. Are those eBook downloads costing too much? We have good news!

South Brunswick Public Library can provide you with free audiobooks and eBooks. Just visit the library’s web page, Click on the ‘Download Audiobooks . eBooks’ button marked Overdrive.

Here you can read our hints for downloading or take the tutorial for searching ListenNJ powered by Overdrive. You will also learn to select Libraries of Middlesex when you are asked the name of your library. Have your library card number and PIN ready.

Next, click on the ‘Click Here To Download’ link at the top of this page. You will arrive at the ListenNJ Digital Download Site powered by Overdrive. The first time you visit please click on the links under ‘Software Downloads’.

Desktop computers, both Windows and Mac, will need to download Overdrive Media Console for audiobooks and Adobe Digital Editions for eBooks. Adobe will require an free Adobe Digital ID.

Nook users need to download books to a desktop computer first and then drag them to the Nook.

Android, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad, or Windows Phone 7 can download the Overdrive Media Console software directly to their moble device to download both audiobooks and eBooks. After you have installed the software and downloaded your book it will open in your Overdrive Media Console software.

Please visit the library Information Desk or call 732-329-4000 x 7286 for help with any of this. Enjoy the books!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Travel Blues

The airlines continue to complicate things by charging fees for every little thing - food, beverages, blankets, pillows, baggage handling, etc.!  Some of the fees are unavoidable (I guess) and not the airlines company's fault (like the surcharge we all pay for security measures post 9/11 that come to about $12.00 per person), but others they are getting away with because we can't do much about it.  We started down the slippery slope from the days when we enjoyed our travel experience including the transportation itself (pre-9/11), to having to grin and bear the awful experience that travel has become.

I have tried to figure out where all of the fees and taxes come from that are added to you airfare these days to see of there are ways to avoid the more costly ones, but that information is hidden in a lot of legalese and fine print.  The only way you can get a breakdown of what you are being charged is to actually make a reservation!  I wanted to book two round-trip tickets the other day and the airfare quoted was only about $300.00.  As I proceeded to book the flight, I was suddenly faced with a charge of almost $1200.00 - almost 350%  of the flight charge added on as "fees and taxes."  This is getting ridiculous.

On my latest trip, I see how people are getting around the baggage handling charges.  Some people who travel often have credit cards that are "attached" to an airline for which they are allowed at least one free bag per person.  My husband and I have a Continental Airlines credit card issued by CHASE.  But the more popular way of avoiding a checked luggage fee is they don't bother to check their bag and they bring clearly oversized bags through security all the way to the gate.  Either in the waiting room before the plane to depart or as the flight is called and the staff person is scanning boarding passes, these bags get tagged with jetway check tickets and their suitcase, (or stroller or golf bag) are taken from the end of the jetway and stowed in the baggage compartment.  Upon arrival at their destination, their bags are brought to them as they wait just outside the plane in the narrow jetway. 

On this latest flight, I think the majority of the 90 passengers were standing waiting at the end of the jetway for a bag and only about 3 or 4 pieces of luggage came out on the luggage carousel later.
The secret to this is to have a bag that is not so large that someone questions you for bringing it down to the gate.  It is often a smaller rolling bag that might fit into the overhead bin on some of the larger planes, but the front pockets are so over stuffed that the bag is far to thick (and heavy) to squeeze into the compartment.  I think this started with items like strollers and wheelchairs that were needed to get a passenger or child to the gate and would be needed immediately upon arrival to get that passenger back out if the arrival airport, but "savvy" passengers have determined this is a good way to not only avoid the baggage handling charges, but to get their luggage early and not have to wait at the carousels for the three hundredth black bag to spit out of the shoot!

It surprises me that the airline and the luggage handlers agree to this.  The process can only happen because a very strong luggage handler is willing to climb up and down a set of stairs with all of these extra bags!

Remember the "good old days" when you could go to the airport with your family and friends and all of you were welcome to go all the way to the gate to say your good-byes as you board the plane or continue visiting if the plane should be delayed?  You didn't have to strip, be x-rayed, subject your luggage to search and keep track of all of your items that might be classified as "liquids!"  Children who are ten years and younger have never had the pleasure of getting off the plane and having Grandma and Grandpa right there with their arms outstretched to welcome you!  These are the little things we took for granted that we now pay extra for the privilege of not enjoying!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The World Inside SBPL

The South Brunswick Public Library is probably one of the best first stops for anyone new to living in the United States.

This is true for at least a half dozen reasons. The first is obvious as soon as you walk through the front door and past the Checkout Desk. Our World Language Collection, located to the rear left of the Desk, includes shelves of books, magazines, movies, music, and instruction for anyone for whom English is a second language. The Collection currently includes about a dozen languages: Spanish, some Japanese and French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and numerous languages of India.

Available materials include fiction, non-fiction, and children's items. While its nice to have items in a native language a new resident also needs materials to study the English language and culture, especially if he or she is enrolled in an ESL (English As A Second Language) program or studying for a Citizenship Test (no piece of cake!)

Backing up the materials for reference and checkout are also support groups that meet regularly here at the Library: the ESL Class and the Conversation Class. The ESL class is led by a volunteer trained to lead the group. Participants much register at the Information Desk.

The Conversation Class does not require any registration and is an informal walk-in group. It is for people who already speak some English but want to develop their conversation skills in a social setting. Participants sometimes bring in mementos or photos to discuss with the others in the group.

In addition to Library materials on the shelves and the classes in our meeting rooms we also provide online resources for new Americans through our website. These resources, compiled by our librarians, include as well as a set of links for citizenship and immigration topics at:

So, please take note of our Library motto new Americans and know that the Library truly is your guide to discovery.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tomato Time

Real Jersey tomatoes are absolutely the best. Why isn’t there a show, Jersey Tomato, instead of Jersey Shore? Much truer to our state and better for you too.

This week I had, I don’t remember, must have been about 10 lbs. of tomatoes from Honey Brook Organic Farm. I also had the August 2011 issue of Bon Appetit (yes, you can get issues of Bon Appetit in our Library! Or you can find the recipes at  The following two recipes are on pages 90 and 91.

The Tomato and Cheddar Pie was great for family brunch with a fried egg and crisp bacon. It was also good reheated for an impromptu dinner one night, and then, later in the week, cut into small pieces and served as an appetizer before our main course of the Tomato and Crab Soup (which for us was Tomato and Shrimp Soup) for a family and friends dinner outside on the deck.  Dessert was ice cream from Bent Spoon in Princeton - some of the amazing flavors:  Corn and Bacon, Cointreau Cilantro, Black Raspberry and Anise Hyssop, and Basil.

Some tips for the Tomato and Cheddar Pie:
– If you don’t have buttermilk (I didn't), use 1 cup of milk to which you add 1 tablespoon of white, apple cider, or red vinegar, stir and let sit 10 minutes.
– This recipe makes way too much crust and filling for a regular 9 inch Pyrex pie pan. Do yourself a favor and use a larger baking dish for a better result.
– You don’t have to wait for the pie to cool before eating – we didn’t, we just dove in – that’s why the photo shows a piece missing – forgot to take the picture before we had our brunch!

The Tomato and Crab Soup caught my eye because instead of traditional flavors, it was a Thai inspired dish that included fish sauce (a.k.a. nam pla), lemongrass, and a Thai chile.

I never used lemongrass before – first to find it: Wegman’s had it – a pack of two tough and fibrous pale yellow green foot long stalks for $2.99.

Then, how to prepare it – I’d seen lemongrass used before on Top Chef. There they bruised the stalks with a chef’s knife. Being the worry wart that I am, I used a flat metal meat mallet to pound them flat instead – they immediately released a great smell – lemony and vegetal, wonderfully fragrant. Nice!

Other than the time it took to slice the lemongrass really finely, this recipe was a snap to prepare with a few adjustments:

– I used a Serrano chile because they didn’t have a Thai chiles at Wegman's, and Serranos are similar in heat profiles.
– I couldn’t find the crabmeat at Costco, so I grabbed a refrigerated container of their Lime Cilantro Shrimp (perfect!) and added it to the soup at the last minute.
– Didn’t bother with “pea tendrils” – seriously? where do you get those? – or the snow peas (just a garnish anyway).

Result – a very light citrus-y soup, with notes of orange, lime and yes, lemongrass. Easy and delicious, healthy tasting and perfect for summer. And about that fish sauce - that and lime juice are very trendy this season.  

Especially love Bon Appetit, Cook's Illustrated and Martha Stewart Living magazine for their great recipes.  Stop by our Library, get some mags, and get cooking!

Read the Book Then See the Movie!

This week's dreary weather of rain and more rain is a perfect excuse to head to the local movie theaters.  But be sure to stop by the South Brunswick Library along the way because many of this summer's movie releases (and some due out this fall) are based on some excellent novels.  Afterwards, take a moment to comment on our blog and let us know which is better, the book or the movie?!

Two books I recently read when I heard the movies were going to be released was Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay and The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  I decided to pick up de Rosnay's novel based on a friend's recommendation and now I'm spreading the word.  It is a powerful, heart-wrenching story of the Jewish persecution in 1942 when the French police rounded up thousands of Jewish families and forced them to stay in the Velodrome d'Hiver under horrific conditions.  There, men, women and children were separated from each other and sent to camps in France before being sent to Auschwitz and put to death. 

De Rosnay's story jumps between two time periods--1942 and the present--in order to tell the the story of Sarah Strazynski, a 10-year-old who is rounded up to go to the Velodrome along with her mother and father and a journalist who is assigned to cover the anniversary of the "Round Up" many years later.  When Sarah is taken away, she has no idea that anything bad is going to happen, particularly since it was their own French police who came for them. Not clearly understanding what her fate is likely going to be, she locks her brother in a secret cupboard to keep him safe, promising the four-year-old she would be back to save him.  When she discovers what is actually happening, she know she needs to survive and somehow get back to Paris before it's too late.

Jump to present day France and the reader is introduced to Julia Jarmond, an American living in Paris and married to a Frenchman.  She is assigned to write about the Vel d'Hiv for its upcoming anniversary and must admit she knows barely anything about this terrible time in French history.  As she continues her research, she discovers that there is a connection between Sarah and her husband's family and Julia becomes all consumed in finding about what happened to this young girl?  Could she actually have survived and if so, is she alive?  What did her husband's relatives know about the Vel d'Hiv and young Sarah.  While those around her caution her not to dig too much for the truth might be more than she can handle, Julia cannot let it go.

As a reader, I found this story so absorbing that I couldn't put it down.   I highly recommend it and look forward to seeing if the movie can compare to the book.

Way before news hit that they were making the book The Help  into a movie, this title was hard to find in the library.  The copies were flying off the shelf for months and months after its release.  So this summer I finally got a copy and it was worth the wait.  I recently read an article by Kathryn Stockett and she revealed this manuscript was rejected by sixty publishers before she got a yes!  She was so devoted to getting this story  told that despite the rejections, she kept editing and tweaking the manuscript until publisher number 61 accepted the book.  Talk about coming full circle with the movie out with a stellar cast and now the book is hard to find on our library shelves again. This novel is about maids working in Jackson, Mississippi, during the 1960's for a group of white, wealthy women.   They are treated so badly that the group of maids agree to secretly tell their story, despite the risk to themselves and their families.  I found myself rushing through the end of this book to find out what happens to these characters, afraid of the consequences they may face for revealing how they are treated.  I'm certainly glad the author was persistent enough not to give up on this manuscript!

A third movie due out in September with Sarah Jessica Parker is based on the novel by Allison Pearson, I Don't Know How She Does It.  It's been a long time since I've read this book but I remember thoroughly enjoying it--a must read for every working mom!   Kate Reddy juggles the life of mom and executive while trying not to fall apart doing it all.  Funny and touching.  (The movie trailer looks good too!) 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Where to go on Vacation - a Tough Decision?

My husband and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in November. Our dilemma is “where do you go in November for a Romantic getaway?” We actually travel every year around this time and although we don’t think we are big fans of a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, we have spent some amusing times looking for something resembling turkey all across Europe, New Zealand and South East Asia.

We are not really the kind of couple that would enjoy sitting on a beach for an entire week, although the thought of getting out of the dreary Northeast at the beginning of winter when all of the autumn color is gone but the whole winter still lies ahead, is a pretty enticing thought. I have used some of the information that Kuller/Class A Travel brought to the library at our last travelogue. There are some beautiful white (or pink) sand beaches in the Caribbean and along the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. We went to Cancun many years ago and made the arrow-straight drive to the famed Chichen Itza in the sweltering heat at that time, so Cancun seems like a “been there, done that” destination but perhaps further south in Cozamel or along the Mayan Rivera further south from there. I think there are some Mayan ruins besides Chichen Itza that we have not seen that we could use to break up the week of sun or in case there is a rainy day. You hear so many things in the news about it not being safe in Mexico lately that I think the resorts that were commercially developed specifically for tourism are the safe way to go.

We spent a week in St. Maartin about four years ago and didn’t find it to be the paradise that we expected. The hotel we stayed at was accessed by crossing the end of the runway at the airport and you couldn’t get anywhere on the island without crossing that road, twice. If you haven’t seen where the airport is in St. Maartin, you haven’t seen the most bizarre location for a runway. The planes land directly across a very appealing white sand beach and despite all of the huge warning signs about being burned by jet wash, people insist on sunbathing on the beach, even some topless women. When those jumbo jets come in for landing, you really think that they may not clear a standing person’s head. And the planes come in all day and all night. A hotel near the airport is no paradise! The hotel was also being converted to a time-share property so all of the pools were closed as was the casino and most of the restaurants. We did have a beautiful balcony that faced the ocean directly with a magnificent view that will most likely be gone by now with the renovation since windows with a direct view of the ocean are susceptible to severe damage in the storms that hit the islands.

We have always heard from others that Aruba is the best Caribbean Island. It seems also to be the most expensive! We have also heard that St. Lucia is the most green and lush of the islands, but it is also “an adventurer’s paradise” which reads to me that you have to have calves of steel to “hike” the trails and nerves of steel to ride the zip-lines. We remember the annoying buzzing sound that zip lines make for miles around from our recent trip to Alaska – it sounds like a swarm of bees coming around every two minutes or so – interspersed with screams of joy (and terror.)

We are also considering the Greek Isles; however, it appears that October 30 is the END of the season in Greece and most places close up on November 1st even thought the water and air temps are in the 70’s. We are looking at Crete since it is the southern most of the Greek Islands (hence the warmest later in the season) and there appears to be a large variety of white sand beaches and lots of interesting ancient history to explore. The question is, will there be any restaurants, car rentals or shops open?

How do you decide where to go on vacation each year? Does anyone have advice?

Monday, August 15, 2011

International Film Festival Never Ends!

While the Summer International Film Festival will end this week it is by no means the end of free international film presentations at the Library! It's just not as often. The Summer program, which had its last showing on Aug. 17 with the Italian film Look At Me, offers a different film each week, twice. The rest of the year movie goers get a different film each month, twice.  Times are always 2 p.m. on Sunday and 6:30p.m. on Wednesday.  The movies are advertised as popular films from the country of origin. Every film has English subtitles, unless of course they from an English-speaking country. Refreshments from home are always welcome. Just keep it neat and not too noisey.
I thought I would give the festival a try recently and brought my teenaged daughter with me to see the Austrailian film Jindabyne.  We brought a bag of popped kettlecorn, two bottled soft drinks, and some bagged candy - all the standard artillery for any movie fan.  We did enjoy our experience but we also learned a few things to share that will enchance the experience of anyone who joins us next time.

 Most importantly, the official start of the viewing is 6:30 p.m. SHARP on Wednesday nights!  The doors to Meeting Room A/B open at 6:25 p.m. Timing is strict because some films run longer than others and the Library closes at 9 p.m.  Period. We got there at 6:45 p.m. and had to slink in under the cover of darkness.  We also had to very carefully open our popcorn bag but it still sounded as loud as a car crash to me as the audience was already hushed and watching the serious film. Don't be late!
Well, no one kicked us out or gave us the stink eye as far as I could tell, but I'll be early next time. 

We settled into our seats with our snacks. We sat in the middle row, off to the right, near the room entrance. While not cinema sized, the screen is larger than your average large screen TV and is viewed easily from any seat in the room. Visability was excellent.  Room temperature may be another issue.  For whatever reason the temperature in this room can be very cool and you may want to bring along a light sweater.  My mother told me I should always bring along a little sweater where ever I go in life anyway so I've already got the sweater whether I am at the Library or not. I think I may have been the only one in the room wearing a sweater, but I was comfortable.

The Fall International Film Festival begins on Sunday, Sept. 18 with a Portuguese film The House of Sand.  Remember that when summer is over there is only one new movie a month, instead of each week.  To read a short description of upcoming films, as well as details such as rating and length, you can click on this link
 or go to our website  to find the link there. The films in the Festival are usually for grownups, so please check the details of a particular movie before bringing along anyone under age 17.

In conclusion, my daughter (she is age 18) and I would give our experience two thumbs up. Not world travelers, we both got a kick out of seeing a film popular from a far off land that neither of us have ever visited.  To some extent, its a virtual travel experience as you dip a toe into a different culture by way of the film.  Most importantly, it's free fun! 

 If you would rather see an international film of your choice, in the privacy of your own home you can do that too, but you'll need to pay a dollar for a one-week rental.  Just choose from the our extensive collection near the Checkout Desk.  The rental fee helps the Library maintain as well as add to its selection of movies.  

I hope I see you next month for House of Sand.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Foodie World

Roasted deliciousness courtesy of the organic farm this week.

If you're not eating, cooking or food shopping, (or dreaming about food, which, I have to admit, happens to me on a regular basis), you can always read about food.  Besides cookbooks, there is a whole world out there of great foodie books.

Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly comes to mind first.  Irreverent, witty, utterly captivating as well as vicariously thrilling and (to me) a little scary, that sums up Bordain's life and books. 

I also enjoyed his A Cook's Tour, about travelling around the world looking for the 'perfect meal'; The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps and Bones, ostensibly about using what's known as offal, but really just more of Bourdain's trenchant and funny experiences with cooking and eating, and Medium Raw:  A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food, which is billed as a sequel to Kitchen Confidential.   

Medium Raw is flawed by a section which veers off into a rant about food chefs and misbegotten celebrity that, to me, seemed a little too insider-y and bad-humored, but on the whole, I still can't resist Bourdain's 'voice', and I'll read anything he writes - (just haven't read his novels, but I prefer non-fiction anyway).

Another food writer with brains and lots of food cred is Ruth Reichl, formerly New York Times restaurant critic and editor-in-chief of (now defunct) Gourmet magazine.  Her first memoir, Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table had me laughing out loud recounting the terrible and actually dangerous meals her mom served - think food poisoning - and how she grew to appreciate great food from her boarding school days in Montreal to cooking in a commune in Berkeley, California. 

I also loved her next two best selling books - Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table, her life in food and relationships, and Garlic and Sapphires: the Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, about her work reviewing restaurants for the NY Times (intense envy from me).  Funny, literate, adventurous and down-to-earth - I would love to share a dinner table with either of these authors...but I guess I'll just have to settle for their books instead.

Other food books I've enjoyed in no particular order:

Blood, Bones and Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton - new book by the chef/owner of Prune in NYC.  Even if you're not a foodie, this book is so well written and evocative that fans of literate memoirs will enjoy this. (Ruefully hilarious:  the section recounting her dread as an adult in visiting her mom whom she hasn't seen in years.)

Heat, by Bill Buford - food obsessed, and working in a restaurant kitchen,  then traveling to Italy to apprentice to a master butcher (more interesting than it sounds - I read this twice, and I never read a book twice).

Knives at Dawn:  America's Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d'Or Competition, by Andrew Friedman - chef Timothy Collingsworth from the French Laundry competes in France in 2009 with support from Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Jerome Bocuse:  overly detailed - yes, but this mirrors the minutiae and effort that goes into competing at this level.

The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation, by David Kamp - history of food trends and how they happen.

The Saucier's Apprentice: One Long Trip through the Great Cooking Schools of Europe, by Bob Spitz - mid-life crisis personal journey through cooking schools at age 50.

How to Pick a Peach: the Search for Flavor From Farm to Table,  by Russ Parsons - how to select produce and some recipes to go with them.

Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell - the movie was fun, but so is the book. (Meryl Streep became Julia Child.)

or straight from the horse's mouth:

My Life in France, by Julia Child

And many more...including -

A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg - when I started reading this book, I couldn't finish it, because it was so engaging and conversational that it made me mad that I hadn't written it myself.  Someday I'll read the rest of it! 

Leave me a comment if you have read any of these or any other foodie books that you've loved...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thrillers with an Amish Twist

Every summer, right before my beach trip to Cape Cod, I hound my fellow library colleagues about what titles I should bring along to read on vacation.   It's my opportunity to try some new authors and to pick up some of the popular titles I've seem come across the Check Out Desk. 

This year the first two titles I read were from a series by author Linda Castillo and the books did not disappoint.  Set in the small town of Painters Mill, the series tell the story of Police Chief Kate Burkholder who gets the job mostly because she was Amish and the powers-that-be hope she'll be sensitive to the needs of the Amish who live in the community.  While she may be understanding of the behavior of the Amish community, they do not trust "the English" and are frequently less than cooperative when called on to help solve the crimes that hit this rural town.

In Sworn to Silence, the first in the series, a serial killer strikes this quiet Ohio town.  Could this be the same Slaughter House killer that terrified the community 16 years ago?  As the body count rises, Kate struggles to keep a secret from her past that might be the key to solving these new horrific crimes. This is a real page turner and readers of thrillers/mysteries should give this one a try as long as you can stomach some graphic descriptions of the murder scenses.  Kate is a really interesting character as is her love interest, a burnt out
cop sent in from the state to assist the female police chief in solving the murders.  Equally as good, and a little less gruesome, is Breaking Silence.  In the second of the series, Kate and her small police squad must respond to a series of a Amish hate crimes.  When three Amish turn up dead on their farm, police must determine if this is a tragic accident or perhaps an escalated hate crime.  Once again, really suspenseful and a quick read.  Enjoyed this one as well.

I'll be picking up the third in the series soon!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Romantic Getaways, Destination Weddings and Honeymoons

On Wednesday, August 3, we had the second of our travelogues presented by Kuller/Class A Travel in Princeton. This presentation was on Romantic Getaways, which included Destination Weddings and Honeymoons. Trudy Dougherty, the co-owner of the agency said, “I think any place on or near water is romantic” so the presentation started with an overview of some beautiful beachside resorts in the Caribbean, Hawaii and the South China Sea. This included some spots in Aruba, Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Hawaii, Fiji and Tahiti. There are also some remote and romantic destinations near Costa Maya, Mexico, on what is called the Mayan Riviera on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula south of Cancun. Most of these resorts are adults-only, all inclusive for food and beverages and some are also inclusive of the recreation (golf and tennis) and all water sports. All have luxury accommodations with amenities like Oceanside massages and relaxing spa treatments. The costs vary depending on the health of the local economy and the strength of our dollar against the local currency, thus Aruba, with its French influence is far pricier than Puerto Rico where the currency is American dollars and no passport is needed. Featured, also were some resorts a little closer to home such as Bermuda, Myrtle Beach in South Carolina and some lakeside resorts in Northern New Jersey and the Poconos!

Destination weddings were discussed including the ability to hold your wedding onboard a cruise ship while it is in port and those that are not traveling leave the ship after the wedding and before it sails and the newlyweds and their friends and family take off on their honeymoon cruise. Of course, a destination wedding on a beautiful, white sand beach on an island in the Caribbean would certainly be incredibly romantic!

The second part of the presentation was on romantic old-world luxury hotels in Europe particularly the grand opulence of some of the fine old hotels in Paris, Rome, Barcelona, and Vienna. Judith Wist, manager of the Princeton office of Kuller/Class A Travel, shared some information about vacations in these locations. Tours of Ireland with castle stays were also presented which would be perfect for the bride that always dreamed of her princess wedding!.

All of these locations, whether on an island or in a beautiful old European city would be perfect for a honeymoon! Whatever your idea for romance is, there is the perfect destination for you and your soul mate to find time for yourselves and each other!

The last of our travelogues is on Adventure Travel. The response to these programs so far has been pretty light and we are thinking about canceling the Adventure Travel program. Please register online for this program scheduled for Wednesday, August 17 if your are interested in attending so that we can determine if there will be a large enough audience to have the representatives from Kuller Travel come to the library with all of their brochures. The deadline for registration is Sunday, August 14 to give enough notice to the presenter about a cancellation.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Help Needed for Program Suggestions

I am in charge of scheduling programs for adults here at the library.  I need your help to find programs that are of interest to you - our patrons.  We have had some successful programs that have attracted a large audience such as Jamie Novak's De-Cluttering Program and the How to Sell on eBay program that the Post Office gave but we have also had some programs where we have brought in an outside presenter and no one has attended.  I would like to get feedback from our patrons on what kinds of programs they would like the library to offer. 

We have had quite a few financial professionals come and talk on a variety of topics...are there some we haven't covered?  We continue to have local medical personnel come and offer seminars on all kinds of aliments and treatments - are there others that you would like information about?  We have a scrapbooking group that meets periodically in the library and a knitting and crocheting group that gathers on a weekly basis to create things in yarn!  Are there other crafts that you have always wanted to try for which we might be able to find an instructor?  Are there other interests you have that you think the library might help you explore?  We are always looking for people to come in and share their own knowledge about either their vocation or their avocation.  Do you have a unique hobby or collection you might like to share with your neighbors?  Please let me know.

We are focusing this fall and into the spring on getting more crafting opportunities for adults and on finding other Professional Organizers to come in to give us more insight on the process of simplifying our lives.  Do you have particular trouble areas our speakers should address?  We have had requests in the past for science and history lectures, particularly World War II history, but we have had no luck in finding the resources to provide these lectures.  We will be starting to use Internet resources this fall to offer discussions on intellectual topics and current issues.  We are starting to show TED Talks during our Wednesday Wisdom lecture series which is offered on the first Wednesday of every month at 1:30 p.m.  TED stands for Technology, Engineering and Design and the 900+ lectures that are collected and disseminated on the website are on those topics and more.  There are other lecture series, like the one we showed last spring by Harvard Professor Michael Sandel on Justice, available from other universities around the world.  There is a wealth of information on the Internet that we will try to make available to our patrons.

Please let us know what interests you, what areas of your life you could use some help with, what topics you would like to see covered and what resources you may like us to provide.  We can't promise you that we will be able to make "all of your dreams come true."  We have had some pretty deep budget cuts that will prevent us from paying for well-known performers and lecturers, but I suspect there are a lot of talented people that we can contact to provide the community a wide variety of opportunities to support life-long learning at the library.

Thank you for your help.  Barbara Battles, Outreach Librarian

Friday, August 5, 2011

Zucchinis Take Over the World

Is this what's going on in your garden at the moment?

Actually I don't have a vegetable garden, just flowers and herbs, but I do have a share in a CSA  - Community Supported Agriculture  -  and so I  have weekly mountains of produce (see photo!).

Among other veg, the zucchinis have been arriving on a regular basis at our CSA farm and on my table.  My go-to prep is grilled zucchini:  cut zukes lengthwise into 1/4 inch planks, mix with olive oil, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper; then grill 2-3 minutes per side till just tender and stripe-y grill marks appear.   Throw on some shreds of torn herbs - basil, tarragon, thyme or what have you.

Great hot as a side dish, also wonderful cold the next day in a wrap with hummus, Jersey tomatoes, lettuce.  Add in a few bits of crumbled feta and some caramelized onions - heaven in a wrap.

So about that produce mountain.  I gathered some promising cookbooks from the Library:

Cooking in the Moment by Andrea Reusing
Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis
Cooking from the Farmer's Market from Williams Sonoma
and just for good measure
Just Married and Cooking.

Sure enough, my go-to grilled zucchini recipe was there in Cooking in the Moment: Broiled Baby Zucchini with Parmesan.  Here they roast the zucchini in the oven (90 degree temps and up all last week? - no way I'm putting the oven on!) and then top with a bit of shaved Parm.  Hmm, nothing new.

Decided to try the Grilled Zucchini with Mint, Chili Oil, and Toasted Pine Nuts. Toasted the pine nuts in my trusty 12" cast iron pan, sauteed the zucchini (nixed the grill) with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Topped with the chili oil (cheated and used sriracha instead), the pine nuts, mint from my garden, and some Parmesan shavings.  Result:  delicious, but the zucchini from the farm was so fresh and wonderful, I kind of liked it better just sauteed?  This would be a good recipe  to jazz up a plain grilled chicken or shrimp dish.

Inspiration struck - I scrambled up some eggs and served them with the Grilled Zucchini to my sons, along with some Spicy Melon Salad with Peanuts and Mint from the day before. A great combination - creamy eggs, many-flavored zucchini, sweet/savory melon. Score!

Cleaned up and then saw I still had two zucchini left - made the Zucchini "Noodles"  with Ricotta recipe.  This was the all around winner - a new technique I never tried and amazing results.  Thinly slice the zucchini with a vegetable peeler into strips - sounds tedious, but 2 zucchini only took me  4 minutes (I timed it).  Saute olive oil, sliced garlic and a hot pepper a few minutes, add the strips and toss until wilted.   Add a tomato, diced small.  Cook another 2 minutes and:   Magic!  the zucchini looks exactly like wide egg noodles!  How did that happen?   Then added the 1/2 cup of mascarpone cheese (didn't have any ricotta on hand) and a cup of chopped basil.  SO GOOD!  My foodie friend Barb stopped by and she loved it too.  Bonus - it's gluten free for her daughter, and it really does taste like fresh pasta.

Will definitely make this again.

Spicy Melon Salad - The recipe says to use a melon baller - too wasteful and time consuming; cubed up the yellow farm watermelon.  This melon was so different - really sweet, and the rind was so tender, it tasted like a cucumber - I ate a slice skin and all. (Just one.)  Cubed up some red watermelon, a cantaloupe from the farm.

Dressed it with a Thai marinade that included a jalapeno pepper (where do you get a fresh red Thai chili?), fresh lime juice, fish sauce, - for the salty component - sugar, and mint.  Sounds strange, tastes bright, bold and fantastic. 

So I only got as far as the melons and zucchini in tackling my produce mountain, and only tried recipes from Cooking in the Moment.  But I can already tell that I love this cookbook, and the recipes are innovative and easy to execute.

Next, what to do with 10 pounds of (not plum) tomatoes...I have my eye on a recipe from Heart of the Artichoke for a gazpacho, and will report back soon.

What cookbook(s) do you use for your summer bounty of produce?  Let me know!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Evanovich's Latest is More of the Same

Smokin’ Seventeen by Janet Evanovich

Every summer Jersey readers are anxious to get their hands on the new release of Janet Evanovich’s latest release to follow the outrageous stunts of Stephanie Plum, the bounty hunter Jersey girl who can’t make up her mind whether to spend her nights with handsome Italian cop Joe Morelli or the more mysterious but still very sexy Ranger. The latest in this series, Smokin’ Seventeen, does deliver some very funny moments—the senior citizen who thinks he’s a vampire and a new curse from Grandma Bella. But after 17 books, the story line is getting a bit old and most readers I’ve spoken to are anxious to see some sort of resolution with Stephanie and her two men. It’s time to pick a guy already and get a life! Her later novels definitely aren’t as outrageously fun as her earlier novels. If you have never read her novels, definitely grab a copy of One For the Money or Two for the Dough and enjoy a great beach read. If you have read her other sixteen novels, not much new here except a few chuckles.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Read Magazines & News For Free

South Brunswick Public Library’s website lets you read magazines and news for free.

Consumer Reports, Popular Mechanics, Electronics and Science are just some of the magazine titles available. Newspapers include New York Time, Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the AP Regional State Report for New Jersey.

Here is how you can read all of this from the comfort of your home.

Go to our web site Click on Databases. Scroll down to EbscoHost and click on the link. Put in your library card number. No spaces. No Letters.

Click on the EbscoHost Web link, or on Ebsco Mobile after you have logged in.

Click on ‘MasterFile Premier’ if you want to see magazines, or, ‘Newspaper Source Plus’ if you want to read Newspapers. Now you can search by keywords for articles, or, you can browse magazine issues by title by clicking on the publications link at the top of the page.

iPod, iPhone and iPad users can download the EbscoHost app. for easy searching, reading and downloading . After you have downloaded the app you need to login from a browser using the directions given above. Choose the Ebsco Mobile link and click on ‘MasterFile Premier’. Then, click on the ‘New Ebschohost iPhone/iPod Application’ link. Fill in your email and you will be sent instructions on how to activate your EbscoHost app.

We hope you enjoy this library gem. If you need help using it please call the Information Desk at 732-329-4000 extension 7286.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Plan a Dream Vacation or Just Daydream Vacation

We are offering some travel related programs this summer in keeping with the adult summer reading travel theme, “Novel Destinations.” Several of these programs are travel showcases that feature local travel agents who present vacation suggestions for cruises, family travel, adventure travel and romantic getaways.

The very informative Family Travel program was given on July 20 by Kuller Class A Travel in Princeton. They brought plenty of brochures on the tours and destinations they presented. Copies of the brochures are in a file at the Information Desk for browsing.

I case you don’t realize how a travel agent works; it costs you nothing as the traveler to get assistance from an agent. The agents’ fee is paid by the tour company, airline or hotel. If you book through the Internet without the use of a travel agent, the provider gets to keep the fee that they would have had to give to the agent and you are left with no one to contact in case of an emergency or a problem while you are away on your trip. Working through an agent gives you someone who will be on your side should you need to settle a dispute or take care of some special need.

I was very surprised at the wide variety of options there were for family travel and all of them are designed to make the most of your vacation time while saving you the hassle of worrying about all of the details. There are basically two different family vacation formats you can consider – there are packages where the whole family participates in the activities together with other families and packages where there are activities for the kids to do with other kids while the parents have time alone together to do what they want to do. The former are mostly travel to destinations where the family can learn about other cultures and experience new wonders while the later is usually on a cruise or at a resort where fun is the agenda for the kids and relaxation is what the adults are seeking. The first decision you should make is which type of vacation your family is up for at this time- in other words, do you want togetherness experience or is a little distance in order?

The family tours include destinations in China, Europe, North, Central and South America, and Africa. Imagine an African Safari with the family which includes visits to animal conservation laboratories and time with local children and their families; or a castle tour of Germany where you get to stay in an actual castle and the kids can dress up as Princesses or Knights. The tours to Italy include dining experiences including 'a make your own pizza' night and the Amazon tour includes riding a zip line through the canopy of a rain forest. There are all different levels of activity and experiences and several classes of travel which you can select which often determines the size of your group and the variety of excursions, but the thing that is true of all of these kinds of vacations is that all of the reservations, luggage handling, tipping, transportation, etc. is handled by someone else so you can just spend your time enjoying the sights with your family.

The all inclusive aspect to these vacations is true of the cruises and resorts as well, but the emphasis for the kids is not about learning something about the destination and its culture but rather about having fun. Many cruises now specialize in sports including climbing on rock walls, learning to surf in a wave pool, and there is even a ship that has a deck called ‘The Boardwalk’ that includes arcades and a carousel. And the resorts usually take advantage of the proximity of the ocean and offer water sports like wind sailing, parasailing, surfing and snorkeling. The programs for the kids are usually broken into age-appropriate groups with separate activities for the little ones, tweens and teens with separate playrooms, game rooms, recreation areas and even separate dance clubs for teens and tweens for hanging out and dancing in the evenings. One cruise line has developed a child’s playroom in conjunction with Fischer-Price and individual babysitters are often available for hire so that parents can enjoy dinner at one of the upscale restaurants that ships are now providing.

The selections are as varied as your imagination and working with a travel agent, you will be able to make sure that all of your dietary needs (even if your children are picky eaters) are met and all of your physical needs are accommodated particularly if you have anyone traveling with a disability. There is the right vacation solution for everyone just waiting for you to make a reservation. Our next travelogue is tomorrow - Wednesday, August 3 at 1:30 p.m. in the large Meeting Room. This week’s topic is Romantic Getaways – don’t miss it!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Grownups Get Special Attention Too!

With all of the programs the Library offers for children, teens, and tweens a person might not notice that right there in the middle of the day in the middle of the week are 90 minutes just for grownups.  It's called Wednesday Wisdom. Every Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. is "a program of interest just for adults." 

It may be a lecture, a documentary film, a discussion about a play or book, or something completely different.  Some programs are educational and informative and some are just for fun such as the sudoku class I recently attended on my lunch hour. The tips I learned were so simple and yet helped me to be much more successful than before.  Thanks Barb!

During this summer the weekly Wisdom programs all complement the adults' Summer Reading Novel Destinations theme. One week I learned about the benefits of guided tours from a local travel agent.  I am (thinking of ) planning a trip for my mother and I to Ireland in the near future.  She is older and not very mobile.  While I know I can get plenty of facts from the Internet, it was much more helpful and fun for me to actually meet and talk directly with an expert. I was able to explain my plan's particular challenges and get quick, to-the-point-of-the-matter answers on the spot from a friendly face.

In July Wisdom presented programs on digital photography, cruises, and vacation journaling and sketching.  In August I'm hoping to use my lunch hour to hear from local vacation experts about romantic vacations and adventure vacations. 

If you are able to attend one of these fun and informative travel-related programs, please do! It is time well spent.  You are welcome to bring your lunch with you!  If you can't make it we do have brochures and information from these travel programs available to peruse at the Information Desk. While visiting the Desk you will also notice the Book Review entry forms. Fill one out and submit it for a chance at our weekly prize drawing! Also, while at the Desk you can register for our International Food Tasting =  the Wisdom program on Aug. 24. To register for the Tasting by phone, call 732-329-4000,ext. 7286.

Wednesday Wisdom will host this "Summer Slammer" and Open House (Grownups Only!) on Aug. 24 to mark the end of this year's Summer Reading for Adults. The Party will include food, fun and games, plus the International Food Tasting.  Stop by the party and talk about what you read this summer. Participation in the Food Tasting does requires registration, but the party does not.  See you there!

Remember, Summer Reading programs may be coming to a close but Wednesday Wisdom happens every week throughout the year.  Every Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. To find out what's ahead, just check our bi-monthly Compass newsletter available in the Library and online at  Also, check the newsletter for other programs the Library offers for adults that might interest you.  We have a variety of ongoing and changing new programs for adults at different days and times each week.

All Wednesday Wisdom programs are sponsored by the Friends of the Library.  Thanks Friends for making this and many other programs at the SBPL possible!