April 7

doubtDoubt – Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman

It’s 1964, St. Nicholas in the Bronx. A charismatic priest, Father Flynn, is trying to upend the school’s strict customs, which have long been fiercely guarded by Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the iron-gloved principal who believes in the power of fear and discipline. When Father Flynn pays too much attention to a new student, Sister Aloysius sets off on a personal crusade to unearth the truth and to expunge Flynn from the school. 5 Oscar Nominations, SAG award to Meryl Streep for Best Actress.

April 14

reader1The Reader – Kate Winslett, Ralph Fiennes

A young man begins an affair with an older woman and learns years later about a secret she’s been harboring, when she must stand trial for Nazi war crimes. Golden Globe and SAG Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Oscar for Best Actress for Kate Winslett.

April 21

frost-nixon2Frost/Nixon – Frank Langella, Michael Sheen

When disgraced President Richard Nixon agreed to an interview with jet-setting television personality David Frost, he thought he’d found the key to saving his tarnished legacy. But, with a name to make and a reputation to overcome, Frost became one of Nixon’s most formidable adversaries. 2 Oscar Nominations

The Wrestler – Micky Rourkewrestler1

A former superstar is now paying the price for twenty years of grueling punishment in and out of the ring. But he’s about to risk everything to prove he has one more match left in him: a re-staging of his famous Madison Square Garden bout against ‘The Ayatollah.’ 2 Oscar nominations.

April 28

bride-warsBride Wars – Ann Hathaway, Kate Hudson

Best friends Liv and Emma have shared a dream since childhood: Each yearns for the perfect June wedding at New York’s famed Plaza Hotel. When a clerical error puts them both down for nuptials on the same day at the same time, one of them will just have to switch the date, right? As if!

Try the new version of the PrairieCat catalog! Some neat things about itprairiecat:

  • Have you ever thought you’d like to write your own review of a book you loved (or hated) and have it appear in the catalog? Well, now you can (Look at the Community Reviews for  The Thing About Jane Spring). That Minniemutt has such good taste in literature.
  • You can also rate an item (1 star = I Hate It and 5 stars = I Love it)
  • You can add the tag “travel book” to make it easier for other users unfamiliar with official library subject headings. You can add adjectives, such as “grunge” for a Pearl Jam CD or physically descriptive, such as “yellow cover!”
  • You can register for a My Discoveries account; this is a great way to keep track of your reading lists or things you want to put on hold. (I have a list of dvds I don’t have time to watch right now, but don’t want to forget about them!)
  • The new catalog is more intuitive, faster, with more relevant search results, but the old or Classic Catalog is still available as a tab.

Edited: We’ve had to postpone our launch of the new catalog until tomorrow, March 31. It’ll be worth the wait, I promise!

    new-terrariumFight off some of that spring fever by cultivating a bit of green on a tabletop. From elegant, antique Wardian cases (named for Englishman Nathaniel Ward who created and popularized glass boxes for plants in the 1840s) to simple vases, Tovah Martin brings us the charming world of terrariums in The New Terrarium. You won’t find even a hint of crunchy-granola-1970s terrariums here (when these enclosed plant worlds were last popular) but you will find modern, playful interpretations of all kinds.

    Martin firmly belives that any container, so long as it’s clear glass and has an opening large enough to accomodate plants, is just fine for a terrarium. As a result, there are fish bowls and aquariums, large flower vases, candy jars, Mason jars, even a covered cake stand on display here. There are also many beautiful examples of glass cloches (also called bell jars) that were once used to protect tender young vegetable plants in the garden, now in service to protect and highlight a beloved indoor plant.

    Plant choices range from the exotic – such as orchids – to the more ordinary – African violets which are at their height this time of year and easy to find, or ferns. In fact, almost any plant – so long as it’s small enough – will thrive in the humid, controlled environment of a terrarium. The exceptions are plants that prefer dry conditions (cactus, succulents, herbs) You can even fill your terrarium with non-plant material – a favorite seashell or a miniature garden gnome. Martin lists favorite plants and how to grow them and gives on instructions on how to plant and care for your mini-garden. Populated with beautiful pictures, you’ll soon be on your way to bringing some of the outdoors in.

    frugallibrarianSo after a “mandatory” $27 expenditure because it was insisted I MUST eat the Giordano’s stuffed pizza pie, I’m convinced a reasonable knockoff could be fabricated for less money.

    Step 1 – Go to the Salvation Army thrift store and get a breadmaker for a couple bucks.  I’m embarassed of this one.  I went there in search of a popcorn popper for my last blog entry, “Magic Beans” Turns out there is a lot of usable stuff there for about zero money.  Lots of ice cream makers too.  Let other people pay full price on newfangled appliances to experiment and you march in there as a lark and snatch them up for two bits.  The dough making alternative is a kitchen mixer with dough hook attachment whose purchase or space usage I cannot justify.  Also, there are people just giving them away as yesterday’s fad.

    WARNING: You have to make a conscientious effort to NOT buy anything else at the thrift store, lest you become some kind of disgusting packrat.

    Step 2- The doughball. After running your few shillings’ worth of flour, yeast, etc through the “dough cycle” on the bread maker, punch it down in a cake pan.   A quick google search yielded found me this crust recipe.  Cake pan can also be purchased for a few cents at the thrift store.

    Step 3-Layer in whatever ingredients you wish and bake for 30 minutes at 375.  The classic recipes tend to suggest mozzerella, sauce, and spinach.  I’m sure pepperoni slices, mushrooms and browned sausage will work.
    Hint:  a tube of Bob Evans is less greasy than the ground stuff at your grocery store’s butcher counter

    Step 4- Eat this monster every meal for the next few days.

    snowflowermedIn today’s  world the main character in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan would perhaps be categorized simply as a “senior citizen”. In Lily’s unforgiving world at 80 she is known as “the one who has not yet died”. Pretty telling about how the elderly and or women are portrayed in this story. Lily tells her challenging life story and what it was like growing up female in a 19th century Chinese village. Women in particular at this time lived excruciatingly difficult lives. Their feet were bound rendering them all but crippled yet was neccessary to procure a husband. They were married off and forced to take the position of lowliest person in the household. Essentially, women were deemed responsible for anything that was bad or went wrong in their culture. Although their customs, folklore and traditions were fascinating, this was a difficult read at times.

    I was amazed at how these women managed to survive such physical and emotional hardships. A beautiful way in which they escaped was through the ancient art of women’s writing called nu shu. Some young girls participated in a sort of arranged friendship called laotongs through which they communicated in this secretive fashion – writing on fans, in letters or embroidering handkerchiefs. Snow Flower and Lily had just  such a relationship in which their remarkable lives are chronicled through their nu shu correspondence.

    s-history-monthMarch is National Women’s History Month, celebrated every year since 1978. This years theme is Women: Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet and spotlights Rachel Carson, author of A Silent Spring.

    Of course, the library has the expected biographies about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, but how about Billie Jean King, Sally Ride or Betty Friedan? Setting individuals aside, I found these two titles very interesting:

    Wild Women: Crusaders, Curmudgeons and Completely Corsetless Ladiesby Autumn Stephens.

    Cowgirls by Candace Savage

    And, for today’s history makers, don’t forget  Ms. Magazine.

    virtuous-victorian1 cowgirls ms

    man-on-wireFrom the first time Frenchman Philippe Petit read about the Twin Towers (while they were still being built) he dreamed of walking on a high-wire strung between the buildings. On August 7, 1974 his dream became a reality. Man on Wire recounts the great adventure that Philippe and his friends went on – the hard work, the determination and training, the massive organizing and sheer skill and beauty of the act of high-wire walking.

    Footage from Philippe’s personal collection are integrated into what becomes a riveting and often tense story of exactly how this illegal (“but not wicked or mean”) act is pulled off. Philippe begins by setting up practice wires in a field near his home in France. As warm-ups to the Twin Towers, he walks a high-wire between the towers of Notre Dame and then between the towers of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge (with the famous Opera House in the background) Planning the Twin Towers walk took many months; still under construction and only partially occupied, Philippe spent many hours studying how to enter the building with nearly a ton of equipment, what the roofs were like, where would be the best places to anchor the wire.

    The night before the walk, Philippe and friends entered the Towers, one team in each building. Both teams had close encounters with guards and equipment problems (imagine for a minute how they got that wire from one building to the other!) The morning dawns misty and foggy, but Philippe never hesitates; he spends nearly an hour on the wire, dancing, saluting the crowd, even laying down, all on a wire suspended nearly a quarter of a mile in the air.

    There is an undercurrent of sadness here as well; friendships strained by the white hot passion of a single-minded obsession fade and break. Present-day interviews of the participants show how much they still care and how this adventure profoundly affected their lives. Even more poignant – not once are the events of 9/11 mentioned, nor the fact that the Towers no longer exsit. This lovely, touching documentary stands as a tribute to the lost Towers and the dreams they generated.

    victory-gardenSearching for fresh, healthy food for your family? Concerned about recent salmonella outbreaks in the food supply? Looking for ways to reduce pollution, cut your dependence on mass-produced food, create a sense of community, save on grocery bills? And oh yeah, looking for food that tastes great? The answer might be right in your backyard.

    Popular during World War I and again during World War II, private citizens in the United States, Canada and England were encouraged to grow their own vegetables in an effort to reduce pressure on the public food supply caused by the war effort. These gardens popped up everywhere, including vacant city lots and even the dry moat around the Tower of London; 20 million Americans participated during World War II and by the end of the war provided nearly 40% of the nation’s vegetables. Called Victory Gardens or Liberty Gardens, they were also considered morale boosters, allowing people to feel empowered by their contribution as well as being rewarded by the produce they grew. Doesn’t that sound like something we could use right now?

    Home gardens are becoming popular again as people rediscover the joys and advantages of growing their own food. Burpee Seed reports a 40% increase in seed sales in 2008, and expect another increase this year. The city of San Francisco developed a program that provides starter kits and information to help urban gardeners convert part of their backyard (or windowsill) into growing vegetables. Then there is Eat the View, an organization that is asking President Obama to plant an organic Victory Garden on the White House lawn (it wouldn’t be the first time this has been done – Eleanor Roosevelt had one installed during World War II). And Secretary of Agriculture (and former Iowa governor) Tom Vilsack has recently announced that his department would create “The People’s Garden” out of a paved area outside their building.

    Not sure how to get started? Don’t worry – the library is here to help. Here’s a list of books that will guide you through those first steps – and encourage you to try something new!

    The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch – Great practical information, presented in a straightforward, no-nonsense manner. All organic.

    The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant – Lots of info on all kinds of composting, including vermiculture (worms) as well as great gardening tips. All organic.

    The Farmer’s Wife Guide to Growing a Great Garden by Barbara Doyen – As well as how to grow, Doyen has information on harvesting, storing and cooking your produce.

    Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver by Fern Bradley – No problem is insurmountable – this book will show you all kinds of solutions. All organic.

    Deer Proofing Your Yard and Garden by Rhonda Hart – Keeping those lovely creatures at bay.

    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver – Provocative and thoughtful examination of what it takes to eat locally.

    If you like basketball, then look for our March Madness display. Not only do we have books about college basketball and the final four, but  also about the pro teams and individual biographies. There’s a new Rick Pitino title that should prove popular, Rebound Rules: The Art of Success 2.0, but I also found a few other gems hidden in the stacks.

    I’d never envisioned the author of Prince of Tides and Beach Music as being particularly athletic, but My Losing Season by Pat Conroy is his rendition of what happened on the court during his senior year of college at the Citadel.  It reads more like a novel than a basketball book, and if you’ve liked his other works, you’ll like this, too.  One unexpected tidbit is a reference to his father playing basketball at St. Ambrose, right here in Davenport, Iowa!

    Counting Coup: A True Story of Honor and Basketball on the Little Big Horn, by Larry Colton, also reads like fiction.  This  story  is a journalist’s peek into the profound effect of girls’ basketball on an impoverished  Crow Indian Reservation in Montana.  Though he focuses on one especially talented player, Sharon LaForge, he also brings the reader along into the struggles of her family and her teammates as well.

    pitino conroy counting-coup

    travel-writerThe Armchair Traveler is starting a travel writing series; Part I focuses on writers who excel in describing both the place and the process of travel.

    The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton

    de Botton excels in capturing the alternate reality and mindset that occurs when you leave home, especially when you are a solitary traveler. He describes the sensation of pleasant isolation and anonymity you experience on a train; or the phenomenon of marveling at the smallest differences in a foreign city.

    As the Romans Do by Alan Epstein

    This is Rome from the American point of view; the author moves his family to the city to experience the daily life of a Roman (getting an apartment, enrolling his kids in school, grocery shopping, etc.) as well as absorbing the cafe culture, soccer obsession, the Italian sense of fashion, and the passion for evenings spent in the piazza.

    Best American Travel Writing

    These pieces from newspapers, magazines and websites are edited by a Who’s Who of travel writing (Bill Bryson, Frances Mayes, Anthony Bourdain, Ian Frazier) and range from the lighthearted (David Sedaris on an ariport layover and Bill Buford sleeping in Central Park) to New York post 9-11, and extreme adventures in Uganda and the Australian Outback.

    Italian Journey by Jean Giono

    This small book is both an appreciation of post-war Venice and philosophical reflections of why we travel. A Frenchman, Giono finds an oasis of beauty and quiet after experiencing the more obvious attractions of Naples and Capri.