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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rocket Languages

Rocket Languages is our new language learning service and it is good! It recently received the PC Magazine Editor’s Choice award for best product in the language learning category. Rocket recently added voice recognition/comparison to all their language products. They’ve created an amazingly fun and effective way to learn a new language.

New users register on at our website, , with their library barcode number and email. Registration is completed by making up a password and accepting terms. It is that simple.

Pick the language you want to learn. The choices are Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, American Sign Language, Spanish, Rocket Eigo (English course for Japanese speakers), Rocket Ingles (English course for Spanish Speakers).

I picked French hoping to communicate with new friends from France. I was impressed by the short lessons that have lots of practice. I was assured that it was never too late to start learning something new. This was nice to hear.

Rocket has great memory tips. One tip was to think in your new language. For “I am hungry” think “J’ ai faim” The idea is that by having these conversations in your head you get lots of practice without an audience. Great tip!

They also give good learning advice. “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes”

Reminds me of Miss Frizzle, the teacher from the ‘Magic School Bus’ television show. She advised her students to “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.”

Rocket offers social networking to enhance learning. It is called ‘My Community’. It lets you post questions and comments to teachers, native speakers, and other Rocket Language Learners.

My first lessons were on meeting, greeting and eating. The Rocket teachers warn that you might experience “…a strange tingling sensation when you hear your first French word.” Forwarned, I was not overpowered by the newness of the sounds.

The conversations were clear, fun and done at just the right pace. They were short and effective with a lot of responses called for on my part. Each conversation may be repeated as many times as you need to pick up the pronunciation.

After a few days practice I was hopeful that I would be able to at least great my friends from France. I greeted them with “Salut. Comment ├ža va?” After that my mind went blank. "C'est la vie." Paris was not built in a day. I will definitely keep practicing and thinking in my new language. And then I will “Take chances, make mistakes and get messy”

Mary Donne
Head of Information Services

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Help with What to Read Next

Have you seen the librarian action figure?  She has a real action move "push to shussh" where she raises her finger to her lips to shussh!  The figure is modeled after Nancy Pearl, a librarian who retired from the Seattle Public Library, who is well known for her reader's guides, book reviews and creating the first "One City One Book" reading program.  Her reader's advisory guides are worth consulting to find out how to determine what you enjoy reading and how to find more books that meet your specific reading preferences.

So far, she has published seven of these useful guides:

Now Read This: A Guide to Mainstream Fiction 1978–1998, Libraries Unlimited, 1999, ISBN 1-56308-659-X

Now Read This II: A Guide to Mainstream Fiction, 1990–2001, Libraries Unlimited, 2002, ISBN 1-56308-867-3

Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason, Sasquatch Books, Seattle, 2003, ISBN 1-57061-381-8

More Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason, Sasquatch Books, Seattle, 2005, ISBN 1-57061-435-0

Book Crush: For Kids and Teens : Recommended Reading For Every Mood, Moment, and Interest, Sasquatch Books, Seattle, 2007, ISBN 978-1570615009

And her most recent books:

Now Read This III: A Guide to Mainstream Fiction,  2002-2009, Libraries Unlimited, 2010, ISBN 978-1591585701

Book Lust To Go, Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers, Sasquatch Books, Seattle, 2010, ISBN 978-1570616501

If you want to use these books and books like these to help you expand (or pinpoint) your reading selections, ask at the Information Desk; many are kept at the desk in the Ready Reference collection.  Others can also be found on the shelves at 011.73.  You can also use these kind of guides to read books set in specific locations, fiction that includes historic characters, and fiction about specific eras or points in history.  There is even a reader's guide to the Best Thin Books for Teens.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Special Needs Programs at SBPL

As frequently happens when one reaches out to help others, the giver gets something good in return. This has been the experience of the Library beginning in 2009.  Buoyed by a grant from INFOLINK, the Eastern  New Jersey Regional Library Cooperative,  SBPL along with other area libraries committed themselves to developing programs targeting children affected by ASD (autism spectrum disorder).
While the money has long since been spent, special needs programming has now become a standard part of each week's agenda at SBPL, giving us an honored place in the lives of many new friends. It is estimated that about one in every 110 children (or 1% of all children in the United States) may have some form of ASD.

That first year really got the ball rolling for us. We connected with local and regional resources to offer parents and kids whatever we could including workshops, as well as fun and educational programs, many also included the siblings of children affected by ASD.  Among the programs was an interactive music concert, Art Therapy, Creative Stacking, Read to a Therapy Dog, and even Yoga for Kids.

Some related program topics addressed other concerns such as diet and ADD/ADHD. In addition, Library staff created a how-to picture book about visiting the library.  Copies were distributed for use in the Library of course, but also to the Township Health Department and to all of the special needs classes in the school district.

Well-attended programs showed that there was a need and desire for this kind of outreach outside of what was offered in schools.  Library programs had the advantage of a community approach that brought the family together. But, enough about what we did. We are doing more today.

Our librarians are now regularly entering the special needs classrooms in the school district offering story times and cementing the Library-School connection. 
The bi-monthly library newsletter The Compass includes a list of activities, usually scheduled on Wednesdays and Thursdays. These include the ever-popular Read to a Therapy Dog program, where a live dog trained to listen to young readers with and without special needs, comes into the library. We are also currently offering the Creative Craft program and Stories and Activities for Children with Special Needs and their Families. Efforts are continually made to juggle staffing to provide some evening programming for working parents.

The cherry on top if that these programs are offered free of charge.  Library Registration is required for some of these programs so it is always a good idea to double-check with the Children's Department by calling (732)329-4000, ext. 7285. Special needs programs are now made possible with funds raised by the Friends of the Library. When you make a donation to the Friends, become a member, or make a purchase at a book sale or other Friend event you are helping to support library programming, including special needs. Thanks!

For more information on current special needs programs and on how you can help the Friends of the Library go to or call (732)329-4000, ext. 7286.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Empty Plates

A few minutes after serving scoops of peach ice cream in sugar wafer bowls to my husband, daughter and son Thursday night, I looked up to see each one of them doing exactly the same thing:  trying to scrape up any last bits from completely empty plates.  I guess you liked it, I said.

It all started two days ago.  I picked up a big basket of peaches from Pleasant Hill Farm in Jamesburg Wednesday afternoon on my way to work at the Library.  Left the Library that night with three cookbooks in hand with ice cream recipes:  The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein, and The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto.

After perusing them all, I picked the Peach Ice Cream recipe from The Perfect Scoop.  Since I knew from experience that any ice cream mixture has to be refrigerated overnight for the best results, (and don't forget the ice cream maker cylinder has to be frozen 24 hours in advance), I prepared the base Wednesday night.  It didn't take much time or skill.  Of course, the key ingredient is great peaches.  Which I had.

The next day was easy.  I grabbed the cooled peach base out of the fridge and the frozen cylinder from the freezer, poured in the mixture, hit the button, and 20 minutes later I had some beautiful, softly set, luscious, late summer peach ice cream.

After I ate (inhaled?) a scoop (the perfect lunch), I thought that the whole process was so easy and quick, maybe I should make some homemade cones?  How hard could it be?  And I'd always wanted to do it.

To my pleasant surprise, the sugar cone recipe I picked from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book worked like a charm.  Easier than one might think.  A caveat:  on a humid day like yesterday, the cones and bowls softened a bit after a few hours.  Might want to make them on a drier day, or else eat them immediately.  They're so much fun to have though, I don't think your fellow ice cream eaters would mind if they were a little bit less than perfect.

Funnily enough, I used wooden blocks (well washed of course) from my granddaughter's toy basket to mold the cones.  After making a batch, and having the seams come apart a little, I read The Perfect Scoop's recipe which recommended to press the mold down firmly on the seam to keep the cones from coming apart, and to pinch the bottom shut.  Worked well.  (Of course, you can always drop a mini marshmallow or two in the bottom of the cones to keep them from dripping, too.)

Peach Ice Cream, adapted from The Perfect Scoop

1 1/2 pounds ripe peaches (about 4 large)
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup sugar, (any kind, white, turbinado, brown)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
few drops fresh lemon juice

Peel the peaches, and cut into small pieces. Cook in medium saucepan with the water for about 8 minutes as you would applesauce, covered, stirring occasionally, until the peaches are tender.  Remove from heat.  Add the sugar of your choice (I used turbinado because I had some and I like it).  Cool.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Process or blend until just barely smooth.  Chill overnight.  Freeze in ice cream maker.

Oven Baked Sugar Cones adapted from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book

3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons, butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Heat the oven to 300 degrees.  Beat the sugar and egg together in a mixer until thickened and pale yellow.  Beat in the butter, vanilla and milk.  Sift the flour over the batter.  Mix gently.

Line a half sheet pan or cookie sheet with a Silpat mat.  Drop 1 1/2 Tablespoons of batter on the mat and spread out with an offset spatula to a 6 inch circle.  Three fit easily on one sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned.  Immediately remove wafer with a spatula and shape over cone mold.  Carefully press down flat on seam side and pinch bottom shut.  Quickly repeat with remaining wafers.  Then let cool a few minutes and unmold.  This recipe makes about 12 cones.  (Can also shape over the back of custard cups to make bowls.)

Even if you don't want to bother with the cones, do try the ice cream - it's so good!  You can pick up an ice cream maker at a yard sale for about $10.00.  The Cuisinart I have I got for Christmas, and sells for about fifty bucks, but you could probably get one on sale for forty.  Ironic that I'm enjoying this ice cream maker now so long after the holidays.  In fact, I did make coffee ice cream (my fave) right away in January, but I used a recipe where you had to cook the eggs and make a custard. Although the flavor was great, the texture was a little bizarre - despite straining the mix before freezing, the ice cream was a little, well, grainy.

Maybe that's advanced ice cream making - for my money, I'll stick with this non-custard recipe when the peaches are fresh and plentiful. After all, you can't argue with an empty plate.

There are so many great sounding recipes in the cookbooks I used, The Perfect Scoop and The Ultimate Ice Cream Book, I would recommend both books, even after having tried just one (excellent) recipe apiece. And if you do,will you let me know how it goes? 

Diane Whitman
Reference Librarian
Peach Lover 


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

eBooks for the Kindle Is Here

Many South Brunswick Library patrons are already reading eBooks from the library on their desktop computers, eReaders and other mobile devices.

The good news is now out for Amazon Kindle users.  You too can download eBooks with your South Brunswick Library card from our website.  Just go to

Click on the 'Download Audiobooks & eBooks' button.

Read our helpful hints page. This includes the library name you will use in ListenNJ, "Libraries of Middlesex"

Then use the link  'Click here to download'.

You will be taken to our ListenNJ page.

Click on the 'Supported Devices' link and then click on the 'Software/Apps' link.  This is where you will get information on the app you need to get Kindle Books from Overdrive.  When you are done here go back to the ListenNJ window.

Click on the picture of the Kindle with the title "Now Available Library eBooks for Kindle".

You will see a list of the Kindle books in ListenNJ.

Use  Advanced Search see Kindle books that are currently available if you do not want to wait for a book.
Please call the South Brunswick Library Information Desk for help with this feature. 732-329-4000 x 7286.

You may also read these Kindle eBooks on a PC, iPhone, Blackberry, iPad or Android.  You will need an App which will be available at Amazon when you go to download the book.

Here is the help information from Amazon's webpage for this new service :

Visit the website of a U.S. library ( that offers digital services from OverDrive.

Check out a Kindle book (library card required).

Click on "Get for Kindle." You will then be directed to to redeem your public library loan. You may be required to login to your account -- or create a new account -- if you're not already logged in.

Choose to read the book on your Kindle device, free reading app, or Kindle Cloud Reader.

Note: Public library books require an active Wi-Fi connection for wireless delivery to a Kindle device. Library books will not be delivered via your Kindle's 3G connection. If trying to send to a Kindle device and do not have an active Wi-Fi connection, you may instead choose to load your library book via USB. Both Mac and Windows users can manage Kindle content through a USB connection.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I be notified before my public library book loan expires?

Yes. Three days before the end of the loan period, we will send a courtesy reminder e-mail about the loan expiration. Once the loan period has ended, an additional e-mail notification will be sent. Availability of books and length of loan are determined by your local library.

How do I view the status of my loan?

You can view the status of a public library book for Kindle from the Manage Your Kindle page. Click on the "+" symbol next to any title to view more details about any book that you've borrowed including the expiration date.

You can also access all of the materials that you currently have checked out on your library's OverDrive-powered website. Within your library's digital site, look for links to My Account, My Bookshelf, or something similar.

What happens to my notes and highlights after a loan expires?

You can always access their notes and highlights through, even after a book expires. And if you check a book out again, or purchase it from all of your notes and highlights will appear in the book as before the loan expired.

Are public library books for Kindle available internationally?

At this time, public library books for Kindle are only available at U.S. libraries.

What Kindle devices can I read public library books on?

You can read borrowed Kindle books on any generation Kindle device or all free Kindle apps, as well as in your web browser with Kindle Cloud Reader. Public library books require an active Wi-Fi connection for wireless delivery to a Kindle device.

Library books will not be delivered via your Kindle's 3G connection. If trying to send to a Kindle device and do not have an active Wi-Fi connection, you may instead choose to load your library book via USB.

How do I send library books to my Kindle device or reading app?

Once a public library book has been redeemed, you can send it to any registered Kindle device or reading app from the Manage Your Kindle page. Public library books require an active Wi-Fi connection for wireless delivery to a Kindle device.

Library books will not be delivered via your Kindle's 3G connection. If trying to send to a Kindle device and do not have an active Wi-Fi connection, you may instead choose to load your library book via USB.

For more information, and to learn about transferring files to your Kindle, please see our Kindle Help page at:

Debut Novel Receives Rave Reviews

Both mesmerizing and chilling is how I would describe the novel I chose to read this week, Alice LaPlante's Turn of Mind.   At the beginning of the novel, Dr. Jennifer White is being questioned for the murder of her best friend and neighbor, Amanda, who was found dead in her home with four fingers cut off with surgical precision.  Since Dr. White is a former orthopedic surgeon, police believe she is the murderer or at least involved in some way.

But is that even possible? Dr. White is suffering from severe dementia and although she has moments of lucidity, there are many bad days when she doesn't even know who her children are or the caregiver who lives with her at her home.  How could a person whose mind is disintegrating be capable of carrying out such a horrible crime and then be successful in covering up her tracks?  The relationship with Amanda was a close one but not without heated arguments and difficulties that frienships endure.  But what would be her motive?

Narrated by Dr. White, this book delves into the characters innermost feelings and her story is a tragic one.  The reader understands what it is like for a highly intelligent surgeon to lose her faculties, to no longer be able to practice medicine, to make decisions regarding her future and where she will live.  Introduced in this book are her two grown children, Mark and Fiona.  Mark for the most part seems untrustworthy, especially when he stops by to visit his mother frequently with the motive of getting her to write him a check. Fiona is in charge of her mother's finances and seems more attentive to the true needs of her mother but even then, questions remain regarding their loyalty.

This book is part thriller, part family drama, and most important, a touching novel that allows readers some insight into the plight of those afflicated with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia.  It is a difficult read because of the subject matter especially for anyone who has a family member or friend suffering from dementia.  However, I would still highly recommend this is one of those books that stay with you for a long time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Celebrate September

Summer Reading is over and we are still considering if we will continue the book review = prize drawing contest. It would work roughly the same way as over the summer – if you complete a book review of the books you read, you will be entered into a weekly contest, which would be a selection off the prize cart and at the end of a three month period, there would be a grand prize drawing for a Barnes and Noble gift card.

Today is Tuesday, September 20, 2011. It is the 263rd day of the year and there are 102 days remaining until 2012. Autumn officially arrives on Friday. The Cosby Show premiered on this day in 1984 and The Phil Silvers Show premiered on September 20, 1955. It is opening day of the United Nations General Assembly – this year being the 64th session and it is the opening day of the Parliament in the Netherlands, which is referred to as Prinsjesdag. Dr. Joyce Brothers was born on this day in 1928, Anne Meara in 1929 and Sophia Loren in 1934. September is an auspicious month. Happy AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Month, Atrial Fibrillation Month ADHD Month, Baby Safety Month, Backpack Safety America Month, Be Kind to Writers and Editors Month, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Chile National Month, Fall Hat Month, Go Wild During California Wild Rice Month, Great American Low-Cholesterol, Low Fat Pizza Bake, Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, Happy Cat Month, International People Skills Month, International Self-Awareness Month, International Strategic Thinking Month, Mold Awareness Month, National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, National Chicken Month, National Coupon Month, National DNA, Genomics and Stem Cell Education and Awareness Month, National Head Lice Prevention Month, National Home Furnishings Month, National Honey Month, National Mushroom Month, National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (by Presidential Proclamation), National Piano Month, National Preparedness Month, National Rice Month, National Sickle Cell Month, National Skin Care Awareness Month, One-on-one Month, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Pleasure Your Mate Month, Sea Cadet Month, September is Healthy Aging Month, Shameless Promotion Month, Sports and Home Eye Safety Month, Subliminal Communications Month, Update Your Resume Month, Whale Grains Month, Women’s Friendship Month, and World Animal Remembrance Month to one and all! This information comes from my favorite reference book, Chase’s Calendar of Events, published every year by the McGraw Hill Companies.

However, the most important association for September, since 1987, is that it is Library Card Sign-up Month!! This observance was launched to meet the challenge of then Secretary of Education William J. Bennett who said, “Let’s have a national campaign. Every child should obtain a library card – and use it.” If you or anyone in your family does not have a library card, what are you waiting for? The American Library Association reminds us that “It is the most important school supply of all” and you can get one FREE at your local library! Check out all the things we have to offer here at the South Brunswick Public Library on our webpage at and come see us soon!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Find Your Roots in the Library

Two of my favorite interests are libraries and genealogy so it is a double whammy of satisfaction when one can combine with the other.   While recently doing some family history research in England I found  information at no less than four public libraries there. Luckily for my husband he likes golf and there was ample opportunity for that too.

Even an ocean away, the public library offered free and friendly guidance to help me along my research journey. You’ve got to love it! (I know, my friends tell me I'm a real party animal!)

While I was lucky enough to have gotten far enough into my research that I needed an airplane to continue the beginner can get a great start on family research right here at the South Brunswick Public Library. Before you pull out your credit card for paid online service such as from, first stop by and see what you can find courtesy of the Library.

The most obvious place to begin is in the how-to family history research collection.  Just look in the shelf area of Dewey 929.1.  If you search the online catalog you'll notice 171 suggestions for "genealogy” related materials. Take your pick.  This is an excellent first step and costs you nothing!

Another resource is our Local Archives Room and is best for someone who has some roots in South Brunswick or nearby areas. Thanks to our recent renovation, much of these local materials are now organized in the Local Archives Room, located in the rear of the building. It is a non-public area of the Library and librarian assistance is needed to pursue the items here.
These local materials have been collected for the past 20 years by Township Local Historian Ceil Leedom, a regular volunteer here.

In it are articles from local newspapers about important people who have either lived in South Brunswick or been associated with it in some way, as well as obituaries, and some wedding and engagement announcements. Some special items in the collection were donated by residents, such as a 1966-67 Valhalla Yearbook and research done by Janet Riemer for the USA’s Bicentennial. It is not a complete collection but it does include some great resources including an 1891 Middlesex County Directory.

The archives also include other helpful resources such as the History of Middlesex County series books, as well as dated area maps, church and cemetery information.

There is more local history information out on the public main floor of the Library, such as the New Jersey Collections. Some can be borrowed but other items can only be referenced while in the Library.

The New Jersey Collections contain information on historic properties, houses and even families…such as Van Liew, Winchester, Rowland, Van Dyke, Emmons, and Wetherhill. There is even a specialty collection on the doctors of Dayton and a Township history scrapbook created by school teacher Doris Curran.

If that isn’t enough for you we have shelves and shelves of microfilm of the New York Times newspaper, beginning in 1851 through December 2010. Perhaps you had a relative good (or bad) enough to get his name in the Times! We also have select local and regional newspapers on microfilm, but not as extensive a collection.

Whether your family's roots are local or not, our librarians can direct you to the right shelf or online database to help you along your road to discovery.  Just ask!


Friday, September 16, 2011

Celebrations from the Heart

Cookbooks are great, but making a recipe that you've made numerous times trumps that.  Today I made two desserts for a birthday celebration, Peach-Ginger Pie with Freshly Whipped Cream, from Rose Levy Beranbaum"s The Pie and Pastry Bible, and Chocolate Praline Cake, from Anne Byrn's The Cake Mix Doctor But my coworker Mike baked the baklava from memory, and how can you beat that?

Mike and his baklava - before and after the ravenous hordes.
Peach-Ginger Pie
adapted from The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Pastry cutouts with the birthday names piped in frosting.
8 cups of sliced peaches, peeled or not
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2 pinches salt
4 teaspoons cornstarch
4 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Decorative pie dough cutouts (use single crust premade dough or make your own)

Mix everything together (not the cutouts!).  Pour into extra deep pie plate or casserole, or a glass 13" x 9" pan.  Cover with foil, cut 1" slit in foil.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes for the casserole, 35 minutes for 13x9 pan.  The juices should be bubbling thickly and peaches will be tender when tested with a knife.  (Place in the oven on a greased foil lined baking sheet to catch drips and keep your oven clean.)

Make pie dough cutouts:  use any pie pastry dough (or premade), and roll out to 1/4 thickness.  Cut into fun shapes - I used two different star cutters.  Brush with milk, sprinkle very heavily with coarse sugar.  Bake at 425 for 12 minutes or until golden.  Cool. 

Place on pie.  Serve with whipped cream (see recipe below) or ice cream - and spoons.

Some notes for the Peach-Ginger Pie:

I ran out of light brown sugar, so I used half dark brown sugar and half white: since brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added, this substitution works just fine.

Forgot to buy fresh ginger at the store, but luckily my (ever resourceful!) daughter had frozen a piece of fresh ginger last month. Fetched it out of the freezer, peeled it by scraping off the skin with a teaspoon (much easier and less wasteful than using a knife), and grated it on a microplane - it turns out that ginger is actually easier to grate frozen than fresh.


Chocolate Praline Cake adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn

3/4 cup chopped pecans
8 Tablespoons butter (1 stick) 

Cake mix gone fancy.
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream

Melt together butter, sugar and cream in saucepan.  Pour evenly in two 9 inch cake pans. 

Spread the chopped pecans over the sugar mixture.

One 18.5 oz. devil's food cake mix
1/2 cup oil
3 eggs
1 cup water

Prepare the cake mix as directed on package.  Spread over praline mixture.  Bake at 325 for about 30 minutes.  Don't overbake chocolate cakes - bake until toothpick inserted in center has a lot of moist crumbs clinging to it, but no raw dough. 

Put cake pans on racks to cool for 10 minutes.  Then turn cakes out onto wire racks, praline side up.  Cool.
Spread with Whipped Cream between layers and on top. (Or pipe it if you have decorating supplies...)

Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar\
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1 packet Whip It, optional

Mix all together at low speed and increase to high until stiff peaks form.  (For serving as an accompaniment to the pie, mix only until soft peaks form.)

Some notes for the Chocolate Praline Cake:

First off, if you want to decorate the cake with the whipped cream, double the recipe for the Sweetened Cream: use two cups, not one.

Second, don't follow Byrn's recipe and use 1/4 cup of sugar per cup of cream - too sweet. Instead follow Berenbaum's proportions of 1 Tablespoon of sugar per cup of cream plus 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Finally, you can buy a little envelope of powder at the store in the baking aisle of Wegman's called "Whip It". (Nothing to do with Devo, by the way.) - it just stabilizes the cream so it doesn't separate, and is especially good when decorating with whipped cream, or transporting a whipped cream dessert. It's made by Dr.Oetker, originally from Germany, the main ingredient is cornstarch. I always try to keep a packet or two on hand.
When you don't have the old family recipes to rely on, try some of the cookbooks in our library.  You might even find something better than "mom used to make"!  And the baklava? - stay posted, we'll try to get that recipe for you soon..

The Cake Mix Doctor is in our Library.  You can get the Pie and Pastry Bible from 12 of our member libraries:  just place a hold online or at the Info desk.  It takes about a week to get holds that are on the shelf from another library - a great service only 25 cents. 

I found the inspiration for the styling of these desserts from several cookbooks in our Library.  Come and check some new cookbooks out for ideas!  It's fun and cheap - enjoy your weekend...and diet on the weekdays.

Diane Whitman
Reference Librarian
Amateur Baker

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

SBPL: Your Port In a Storm

NJ 211 Hurricane Relief

Many people in South Brunswick were without power after Hurricane Irene.  They came to South Brunswick Library to use computers or Wifi. They came to have a well lit and comfortable place to sit and read.  They even came to charge their cell phones.  We put out extra power strips and were happy to work with them to get what they needed during this difficult time.  It was good to see that so many people  knew  the library would be there for them.

Now the library's webpage has a link that will get you the information that you need to apply for hurricane relief assistance. Click on the NJ 211 Hurricane Relief link above and then click on the Immediate Assitance - Local link on their webpage to find out what help is available and where to get it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Downside of Time Share Vacations

It’s amazing how enticing time share marketers and sales people can make the idea of owning a time share and how disappointing the reality is. I’m not saying that I haven’t enjoyed all of the vacations we have taken through our timeshare (except that trip to St. Maarten I wrote about a few weeks ago), but the process of scheduling the vacations is far from ideal. We own a timeshare with one of the big hotel chain’s vacation club. This sounds ideal since you can earn “points” to be used in the club trough purchases made on an affiliated credit card and with stays at any of their extensive chain of hotels. They are also partnered with several other timeshare companies, expanding the choice of vacation destinations.

The problems my husband and I are having with this service is that we are almost too busy to take time for week long (or more) vacations, which is the best way to use the timeshare. This was actually why we were originally sold on the concept, because we thought if we had these vacations that we paid for over time, we would be compelled to take more time for ourselves. The reality is that to get the most out of the service, you really have to be able to determine well in advance when you will be available to take the time and where you want to go and you have to have some flexibility. Like the rest of the world these days, we are very last minute about making plans and by the time we determine that we can both get away at the same time and we decide on a location we want to go where the weather, etc. will be favorable, all the “good” places are unavailable. And if you don’t use the points you have paid for, you loose them!

We have to take a “nice” vacation by the end of this year or risk losing a substantial number of points and the only time we will be able to get off is around Thanksgiving. We want to go somewhere amazing since we are celebrating a significant anniversary but the problem is that travel in November is not an ideal time weather-wise (unless you are skiers). In November, almost half of the world is too cold or too wet and about half of the places where the weather is warm are too far to travel to with only one week off. We have settled on the Caribbean, but all of the resorts that are available at this time are “all inclusive” and the fees that are charged, per person, per day, to use their facilities, to drink like a fish and to eat in the same restaurant at the same location for 21 meals in a row are outrageously expensive even in the shoulder season. And of course, these fees are not part of the timeshare agreement!

And the reservation process for these vacations is far from easy, although the new online tools that they have added are certainly a big help. Ultimately, I think the best thing to do is to find someone “in the know” on the inside that you can call and have them take care of everything from hotel reservations to airfare and all of the extras. That person used to be called a travel agent…I wonder if there are travel agents that can work their magic with your timeshare? I suspect there is no money in it for them to bother…

Those who are best suited to take full advantage of this kind of travel club are active retirees…my husband and I only have 15 more years to go before we can enjoy our timeshare! Will we make it that long? Only time will tell.

Monday, September 12, 2011

September is Library Card Sign-Up Month

 What is plastic, flat and rectangular, fits in your wallet, enables unlimited possibilities, yet no debt?  A library card of course!  All through September libraries across the country are reminding people of all the wonders granted by a little bit of plastic called a library card.

"There is no better complement to educational endeavors and
no better resource for affordable pleasures."

Having a library card gives the holder access to so much for so little that some call it the “smart card.”

In addition to the expected print materials, such as books and magazines, cardholders at South Brunswick Public Library can find us here seven days a week and can access many of our online services 24/7.

Cardholders can use the Internet, borrow music and movies, travel guides and maps, audio books, computer games, and popular magazines. They can even find a lot of that in several different foreign languages! Of course we also offer e-books and a host of other services for mobile devices. Just ask one of our professionals at the Information Desk for more details.

Many “eons” ago people thought of librarians as bookworms living a lonely life of quiet desperation. Not so! Today’s librarian is an information specialist worldly wise in all areas including electronic, print, and audio-visual. As our motto says, we are your “guide to discovery.”

For hundreds of more ideas on how to use your library card, just go onto our website You’ll find connections to tutoring, job searches, online language learning, and career exploration just for starters!

Studies show that children who use the library do perform better in school and are more likely to continue to use the library as a source of lifetime learning. However, children can also checkout games, and other fun stuff.

Adults have some benefits too. We offer adult book clubs in the afternoon and the evening. We host numerous programs and clubs on topics including the international cinema, photography, de-cluttering, poetry, computer problems and basic skills, needle crafts, and so on!

The library is the place to meet like-minded individuals and pursue your passion.

Not sure how to begin? Just ask one of our librarians aka “guides” for help. How about finding a new job, learning basic computer skills and Facebook, losing weight, fixing your car, building a backyard deck, or managing your money?

Popular magazines? We’ve got ‘em! Information for new Americans? We’ve got that too!

Don’t forget our library also offers curbside service with our Bookmobile. For more information about all of our services, visit our website:

The observance of Library Card Sign-up Month was launched in 1987 as a national campaign to ensure every child has a library card.

According to the American Library Association, an estimated two-thirds of all Americans already do have a library card. If you’re not one of them, pick yours up today. It’s easy.

SBPL requires a card to check out any materials. To get a card for yourself or child, please have some form of identification that shows your address, such as a driver’s license. First-time library cards are free. Apply for your card today on the Bookmobile or in the library at the Check-out Desk. For questions, call (732) 329-4000 ext. 7290.

This "Amnesia Thriller" Will Be Hard For the Reader to Forget

Christine wakes up in an unfamiliar house, thinking she's twenty something years old, and having no recognition of the man asleep in the bed beside her.  Trying to figure out what's going on, she discovers the woman staring back at her from the bathroom mirror is someone in her forties and the unrecognizable man turns out to be her husband, Ben.  Thus begins the debut novel Before I Go To Sleep,  by S.J. Watson. It is a terrifying situation to be in, learning upon waking that you have amnesia and can only recall some memories from before an accident that apparently caused this condition.

Every time Christine goes to sleep, her memories are erased and she awakes not knowing anything concrete about her past--no memories of falling in love with her husband, of her wedding day, or even where she went to college.  It is a scarey premise for certain and as the reader, I could feel Christine's terror as she tried to piece together the few memories that would come to her and so afraid of what would happen when she went to sleep.  You can also feel the pain and frustration of her husband who each day explains to Christine what has happened, an agonizing experience for him to be constantly reminded of the fact that the woman he loves doesn't even know who he is.

Christine received a phone call from her doctor who is helping her regain some of her memory.  Each day he calls to remind her to continue writing in the journal she is keeping to record her memories.  But are these memories accurate?  And why does she have "Don't Trust Ben" in the journal?

I knew little of this novel before I started the book, only that the character had amnesia and would forget everything when she went to sleep.  The premise certainly seemed  like a unique one and the author was receiving rave reviews for his first novel.  It was way more than I expected and it is one of those books that you want everyone to read so you can start talking about it--definitely book club material!

When I was about half way through the book I could not put it down.  What I expected to be a novel about a woman with a strange type of amnesia, turned into more than that. It was an excellent psychological thriller that kept me reading until I finished the book.  I was so anxious to find out what really was the story behind Christine--what had really caused this type of amnesia?  Was her husband telling her the truth about her past or lies to protect her?  Could he really be trusted or did he have some secrets hidden for some ulterior motive?  So suspenseful, wonderfully written, and something completely different than I ever expected.

Run to the library to get this one! This "Amnesia Thriller" is one you will not soon forget.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Breakfast at the Beach

Wouldn't you love to have breakfast with Giada de Laurentiis (of Food Network fame)?   No?   Then how about just eating her food?  That's what we did Saturday, when we were at the beach with some dear friends. 

I made Giada's Egg White Frittata with Lox and Arugula,  from Giada at Home, a lovely cookbook that embodies the Italian philosophy that the ingredients star in the food, not the technique.  Throw in a little California vibe, and that's Giada's cooking.  Simplicity, freshness and brightness reign. 

The frittata was light, with lemony and smoky notes from the salmon.  With a bagel, and sliced yellow heirloom tomatoes,  and with said friends and a sunny view of the bay from their kitchen window?  Heaven.

We also enjoyed another winner from the same cookbook, Stuffed Baby Peppers (you can buy a big bag of mini red and yellow peppers at Costco), for an appetizer the next evening.  Healthy, tasty and beautiful, this recipe was a hit with all ages.  Thanks to my fellow blogger, who posts at, for making this recipe for all of us to enjoy this weekend. 

Cooking in the Moment by Andrea Reusing was up again this weekend when I made Green Cabbage Salad with Escabeche Dressing.  The salad was especially good because the cabbage was fresh from the organic farm, but the real star was the dressing, an easy vinaigrette using fresh lime juice that was interesting and refreshing.  It would be good on any light salad.

Egg-White Frittata with Lox and Arugula, adapted from Giada de Laurentiis, Giada at Home

8 egg whites, room temp
1/2 cup heavy cream
grated zest of one lemon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
6 oz. lox or smoked salmon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2  or 3 oz. (2 packed cups) arugula
1 garlic clove, minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Whisk egg whites until fluffy.   Whisk in the cream, lemon zest, salt and pepper.  Stir in the chopped salmon. 
Preheat an ovenproof, non-stick 10 inch skillet.  Add the olive oil.  Saute the arugula and garlic about 1 minute, stirring.  The greens will wilt and collapse.
Add the egg mixture to the pan, and cook over medium heat without stirring, about 4 minutes.
Put the skillet in the oven for 10 - 12 minutes, until the frittata looks set.
Can serve from the pan, or slide out onto a platter.

Escabeche Dressing, adapted from Cooking in the Moment, by Andrea Reusing

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon plus 1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Whisk together all ingredients.  Serve over chopped cabbage, carrots and radishes, or any greens.

Get some cookbooks at our Library, and get cooking.  Let me know how it goes...

Diane Whitman
Reference Librarian

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Adult Summer Reading Wrap-up

The Summer Reading Programs are all done now that it is September and Labor Day is behind us.  There is however, one remnant of the summer that continues here at the library.  Our South Brunswick Travels Photo Mural that features photographs of all of the places that our staff and our patrons have visited will be posted in the library through October and the prize drawing for a Shutterfly Gift Card will be held some time during the first week of October.  If you have submitted a photo to the mural, you are entered into the drawing.  And there is still time to submit your photos and be included on the mural and entered into the drawing.  We are taking submittals of up to three photos through the end of September.  You can drop off your photos on a CD at the Information Desk or you can send them to  as an email attachment.
The mural is posted on the display panels adjacent to the Check-Out Desk across the aisle from the Graphic Novel collection.  The mural and all of the pictures of our travels will be up in the library through October, so stop by and see if you can identify all of the places that are pictured.  The world map that hangs next to the mural has color dots that represent the places where people have traveled in person and sent in a picture and places that readers traveled in their easy chairs through the books that were read and recorded by submitting a Novel Destinations Entry Form. 

In total, 39 adults participated in the summer reading program.  Together they read a total of 217 books of which 105 were submitted with a review or rating.  Thank you so much to those who participated and submitted a review.  You can read the reviews in a blog called “What Should You Read Next” on our webpage at under Adults.  At the top of that page there are icons for the three blogs that are written by the library staff.  You can also connect directly at – if you don’t know what to read next, it can be a help to hear what others are reading and how they liked or disliked what they read.  Of the seven readers who read more than 10 books, our most prolific reader submitted entries for 16 books and she wrote a review for all 16 books.  There were 2 readers that read 15 books each, three that read 13 and one who read 12.  That is 92 books or a little less that half of all the books submitted.  I would say that there were at least 7 readers who had a relaxing summer traveling the world through the books they read.  

We were thinking of continuing the same type of patron provided reader’s advisory service by extending the same program through the remainder of year.  We would start the program in October with a new entry form to submit and continue to have weekly drawings from the submittals for the week with a grand prize drawing from all of the entries submitted at the end of three months on or around the first of the New Year.  The blog would be continued and perhaps some reviews will be posted in the library in a book display or pasted into the book itself.  I would love to hear if anyone is interested in continuing to provide your opinion of the books you are reading.      

Friday, September 2, 2011

Remembrance of Things Past

No, not Proust's madeleines.  Squash and cake. 

Let me explain.  Haven't you eaten something wonderful in the past, and then wondered how you could make it again?  It's in the pantheon of lost memories and lost recipes.

I remember the first time I ate zucchini.  It was at a friend's house for dinner when I was 16.  The rest of the dinner I don't remember, but I had this incredible meltingly creamy, cheesy, salty vegetable I had never had in my life before.  I didn't even know what it was.  My mother was of the Bird's Eye-vegetable-from-the -freezer mode during the '70's, and basically fresh vegetables at home for us were carrots, green beans and corn on the cob.  It turns out it was zucchini simmered slowly and then with CheezWiz added, and I loved it.

Since then I've enjoyed zucchini and summer squashes in lots of (more sophisticated) ways.  But this recipe I just tried from Cooking in the Moment by Andrea Reusing, though infinitely better than that first taste, brought back that softly cooked, but not overcooked, custard-like texture and freshness that captured my imagination way back when.  I used yellow globe squash and amethyst basil, but you can use any kind of each.  My adapted version follows. 

Slow Cooked Squash with Butter and Basil 

2 Tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 - 4 cups yellow squash, in 1/2" cubes
10 leaves fresh basil, stacked, then rolled up like a cigar and thinly sliced ("chiffonade")

Melt 1 Tbl. butter in a skillet on low heat, stir in the onion and salt.  Cover and cook on low for about 5 - 8 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.  Stir in the remaining butter and the squash cubes.  Cook covered on low heat for 6 - 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash cubes are just soft but not mushy.  Taste to be sure.  Fold in the basil, mix until the basil wilts, and taste.  Add more salt if necessary. 

Now the cake.  Again, I was 16, and had just arrived in Switzerland.  We went back to a chaperone's house, and we hadn't eaten for hours.  So our host whipped up this fresh cherry, eggy, fragrant cake, and we had it for dinner.  Just cake, nothing else.  And it was spectacular.  For some reason, eggs and milk taste different in Europe, more flavorful, more 'real'.  Did you know Switzerland is known for their fruit, especially cherries? - think Kirschwasser and Black Forest Cherry Cake. 

I've never really found any recipe as good as that cake was, but I keep trying.  This one, adapted below from The Greenmarket Cookbook  by Joel Partraker and Joel Schwartz, was very good, even if it was not quite up to that first magical Swiss meal. 

Satisfied customer.

This recipe uses strawberries (I know - they're out of season, but I happened to have a box in the fridge), but you could substitue any fresh stone fruit (peach, nectarine, plum) or berry and it would work.  Quick, easy and delish.

Roasted Strawberry Clafouti

1 lb.,  or 3 - 4 cups strawberries, washed and hulled  (or other berries, or stone fruit pitted and cut in large wedges)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup flour

confectioner's sugar for dusting
Optional:  whipped cream or ice cream
Cover a sheet pan with foil.  Coat the fruit with the sugar, place on the pan.  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  This concentrates the flavor of the fruit, and reduces the wateriness.

Butter a 9 or 10" glass pie plate or casserole.  With tongs, place the hot fruit in the dish. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the next 6 ingredients until well blended.  Sprinkle on the flour and mix just until combined.  Carefully pour over the hot fruit in the dish.

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.  Serve immediately or at room temperature.  Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and serve with a little whipped cream or ice cream.

I stayed in Switzerland with a family for 10 weeks that summer, and the mom often made fruit tarts baked in great flat sheet pans that covered half the table for lunch. Again, nothing else, just dessert for lunch. Some were made with plums, others apricots, all gluttony producing. I'm still searching for a recipe comparable to those fruit tarts from long ago...more on that another time...

Remember that Cooking in the Moment, and The Greenmarket Cookbook, and countless other cookbook titles are here in the Library waiting for you. If we don't have something you want, we can put in on hold and have it brought in in about a week's time from our other member libraries.

Try this hold feature especially for new books - even if we only have the book in our ordering process, you can put a hold on it and be the first person to take it out after we process it. 

Enjoy cooking this weekend!

Leave it to the Golden Retriever!

I don't consider myself an animal fanatic by any means, but there's just something something better about David Rosenfelt's mysteries when his dog Tara is involved...even in just a small way.   Perhaps it is because Tara is a golden retriever and of course I'm partial to that breed, owning one myself.  David Rosenfelt actually owns 27 of them and has a foundation with his wife that has rescued almost 4,000 animals and found them good, loving homes.  You just have to love an author with that kind of heart.  With the hurricane predicted last weekend, I thought it was the perfect time to curl up with a good mystery and Rosenfelt's One Dog Night did not disappoint. 

With the wind howling outside, I was engaged in lawyer Andy Carpenter's latest case involving Noah Carpenter, a man accused of setting fire to a building with 26 people inside.  All the evidence seemed to point to Noah and it seemed like it was a slam-dunk case for the prosecution.  Andy was reluctant to get involved until he discovers that Noah was the previous owner of his dog Tara and loves Andy's dog as much as he does.  Andy begins to think that perhaps there is more to the case and from there the story is filled with lots of  twists and turns and keeps the reader in suspense right to the end.  I love the humor of Andy, the New Jersey setting, and of course the golden retriever.

I have only read two other of Rosenfelt's series with Andy Carpenter and so I can't really say how this compares to the many books he's written with this character.  But I did read Down to the Wire, a thriller of his that was a stand alone book and it was a major disappointment.  Too far fetched to be believable and half way through the book I was ready to put it down.  But happily Rosenfelt is back to writing what he knows as a native of Patterson, NJ himself.