Perfect Pies by Michele Stuart

I am going to admit to what many people would consider a glaring character flaw: I’m not a big fan of pies. Except for my Mother’s Apple Crisp pie and the Raisin Cream Pie at the Ox Yoke Inn in Amana (don’t ask), I can pass on pie. Well, here’s a book that might just change my mind.

Perfect Pies by Michele Stuart covers a whole range of sweet and savory delights. Ranging from “Farm Stand Pies” (which use fresh fruit) to “Nut Pies” to “Cream Pies”, “Party Pies” to “Savory Pies”  just about every pie craving can be met with this book. Stuart has won multiple National Pie Championship Awards and it shows in her attention to detail. However, don’t be scared off – she favors simple and straightforward to fancy and show-off, allowing the flavor of excellent ingredients to shine through. There are also chapters on making the perfect crust and creating little extras such as whipped creams and sauces.

The hard part is going to be which pie to start with – Chocolate-Pecan-Bourbon Pie? Michele’s Mud Pie? Ultimate Banana Split Pie? Or the classic – Country Apple Pie? Decisions, decisions….


Frugal Librarian #43: Great goober shortage of 2011

These are the times that try mens souls.  Food charities are concerned, and the benevolent food industry giants like Con Agra are raising prices 40 percent just to keep up.  Classic cheap source of protein and kid appeaser, peanut butter, is in short supply due to the invisible hand of the market.

If you’re not inclined to switch to Vegamite like our Aussie pals, plan to pay more or make other sandwich plans until the next crop.

Workaholics: awesome like Darkwing Duck

Workaholics, which just finished it’s second season on Comedy Central, is a quirky comedy about three recent college grads named Blake, Adam, and Anders who live together and work together (literally in the same cubicle) at a ho-hum telemarketing firm.

And it is super funny.
Like really really really funny.
There is Wizard Rap.
Basically, I love it a lot.

By combining the quirkiness of The Office and the outrageousness of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Workaholics manages to be both audacious and sweet. These guys may scam their way out of the office drug test or lead a strike when they aren’t allowed to take a day off for Half-Christmas, but they really do care about each other and their coworkers (Their goofy friendship with their nerdy coworker, Jillian, is so adorable).

However, what I find most notable about Workaholics is the show’s constant references to Rugrats, Home Alone, and Darkwing Duck. Yes, we Generation Y-ers have finally come of age and have made it not only into the workforce, but also into the writers’ chairs of cable television. Yippy Skippy! (The show has yet to make a Muppet Babies reference, but I’m sure it is coming..) I highly recommend checking out Workaholics to those fans of South Park, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Nickelodeon’s All That (the original era).

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

It’s hard to choose a favorite supporting character on The Office, but I consistently enjoy the self-absorbed airheadedness of Kelly Kapoor, played perfectly by writer and actress Mindy Kaling.  So imagine my excitement when I found out that Mindy was about to release a book of humorous essays called Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns.  In the book, Mindy tells stories about her childhood, how she dealt with living in New York  in her 20s while trying to get discovered, and what it’s really like to work on The Office.  There are also a lot of funny and seemingly-random chapters on things like “karaoke etiquette”, why she likes guys with chest hair and her top eleven favorite comedic moments in film and TV.  By the end, despite the fact that I was thoroughly entertained, I was mostly sad that Mindy and I aren’t best friends.  She writes in such a laid-back, conversational tone and is so relatable despite her fame that it really feels like you’re chatting with one of your good friends.

I find it hard to summarize books like this, so instead, here are a few of my favorite parts and things I learned:

  • Mindy wrote my two favorite episodes of The Office:  The Injury and The Dundies.  If you haven’t seen these, go watch them as soon as you finish reading this so that you can be even more impressed with Ms. Kaling.
  • Her views on romantic comedies:  “I enjoy watching people fall in love on-screen so much that I can suspend my disbelief for the contrived situations that only happen in the heightened world of romantic comedies….I simply regard romantic comedies as a sub-genre of sci-fi, in which the world created therein has different rules than my regular human world.”
  • One of my favorite chapters was the incredibly truthful “Best Friends Rights and Responsibilities”, a list of things your best friend is expected to do for you and vice versa.  For example, “I will try to like your boyfriend five times” and “I must be 100% honest about how you look, but gentle”.
  • Her big break was when Greg Daniels saw her perform in the off-Broadway play that she and a friend wrote called “Matt & Ben”.  Mindy played Ben Affleck.
  • On being a chubby girl when she was young:  “My mom’s a doctor, but because she came from India and then Africa, where childhood obesity was not a problem, she put no premium on having skinny kids. In fact she and my dad didn’t mind having a chubby daughter. Part of me wonders if it even made them feel a little prosperous, like ‘Have you seen our overweight Indian child? Do you know how statistically rare this is?'”
  • And finally, to get herself through a workout on the treadmill, Mindy has to come up with elaborate revenge fantasies to pass the time.  I won’t spoil them here, but trust me when I say this chapter is just as funny as it sounds.

This book inevitably gets compared to Tina Fey’s Bossypants (another excellent book that you can read more about here), and while Kaling and Fey are very different women, both have written laugh-out-loud books that I highly recommend.

Holiday Music Blues

Thanksgiving has barely passed and I’m already sick to death of the holiday glut of Mariah Carey and “Feliz Navidad” – if you too crave some alternative holiday tunes, pick up these library items to rejuvenate your playlist.

Yule b Swingin Too – a jazzy, swinging mix of old favorites with a vibrant, fun feel.

Midwinter Graces by Tori Amos – A lush mix of standard classics, re-imagined favorites, and new material from the celebrated singer.

Christmas with the Stars – Orchestral, instrumental, vocal, classical, popular, and ensemble: this album combines styles seamlessly for a joyous effect.

Songs of Joy and Peace by Yo-Yo Ma – Yo-Yo Ma’s famous cello skills make this album a relaxing, joyous listen.

Kwanzaa Music – with tracks from artists like Aretha Franklin and the Baha Men, this eclectic collection gives you a celebratory mood with none of the bland predictability of a usual holiday album.


Christmas Cocktails 1 and 2 – the unique ‘ultra-lounge’ style of these albums puts a fun vintage twist on your holiday listening.

The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album – Who doesn’t love their classic “Little Saint Nick”?

 A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector – the legendary producer’s Christmas album is really delightful. Classic and well loved without being overplayed.

40 years of a Charlie Brown Christmas – A true classic brimming with childhood whimsy.

Frugal Librarian #42: Weekly savings cycle

We’ve all heard the cheapest day for airline ticket purchases, for which there has been no definitive ruling about the mythical master mainframe of all airfares that mystically opens up pumpkin coach-class seats at midnight on a Wednesday.

According to site Extrabux, there is also some data out there that backs up weekly price trends for computers, TV’s, jewelry, appliances, books, and more.

And if you want a deal, don’t worry that cyber Monday has passed.   The biggest online day of the shopping year usually ends up being something like December 10th.   On which, the odds of getting pepper-sprayed/trampled by your fellow retail shopper significantly decrease.