New DVDs for August

August 5

Nim’s Island – Starring Abigail Breslin, Gerald Butler, and Jodie Foster.

Nim’s Island is the story of a girl named Nim who lives on a beautiful uncharted island with her father Jack, a research scientist. Nim spends her days exploring the beautiful island and reading. When her father is lost at sea after a storm, Nim contacts her favorite writer of adventure stories, Alex Rover, convinced he will know what to do. What Nim doesn’t realize is that “Alex” is really Alexandra, a woman who is afraid to leave her house. Will Jack survive? Will Alexandra find the courage to come out of her shell? An adventure story about the courage in each of us, Nim’s Island will delight the whole family.

August 12

Smart People – starring Thomas Haden Church, Christie Lahti, Ellen Page, Sarah Jessica Parker and Dennis Quaid

Dennis Quaid stars as a bitter, washed out widower in Smart People, a film that tackles the lives of several seriously unhappy people in surprisingly funny and touching ways. A hated literature professor at Carnegie Mellon, Lawrence Wetherhold has been earning the scorn of his students, colleagues, and family since the death of his wife several years ago. A health scare, an unexpected visit from his adopted brother, and a new romantic interest shake things up and stir Lawrence from his constant misery. Fine performances and a sharp script make this a must-see movie.

August 19th

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – Starring Amy Adams and Frances McDormand

In 1939 London, Miss Guinevere Pettigrew is a middle-aged governess who finds herself once again unfairly dismissed from her job. Without so much as severance pay, Miss Pettigrew realizes that she must seize the day and intercepts an employment assignment for a social secretary. Arriving at a penthouse apartment for the interview, Miss Pettigrew is catapulted into the glamorous world and dizzying social whirl of American actress and singer, Delysia Lafosse. This funny and delightful movie proves that following your heart is right thing to do.

Vacationing at Home

Price of gas got you down? Planning on canceling or cutting back on travel plans? Try taking a vacation in your own backyard. Here are some books that can inspire you to makeover your yard for your own private retreat.

Backyard Design by Jean Breskend. Covering all types of backyards – city, suburban, country – Backyard Design will give you lots of ideas and tips on handling many different situations – swimming pools, fences, driveways, retaining walls, recreation areas, patios and decks. Both inspirational and instructional, this is a good place to start.

Deckscaping by Barbara Ellis. Already have a deck, but it’s less than inviting? This book is filled with ideas for decorating decks of all shapes and sizes. As well as including ideas on choosing plants and containers, there are sections on outdoor furniture, how to build trellises and arbors and how to create beautiful container gardens for your deck.

In Your Own Backyard by A. Cort Sinnes. Illustrated with charming line drawings and whimsical paintings, here is a book that encourages you to create a backyard retreat that fits your personality and needs, not what will impress the neighbors (or Martha Stewart) Whether it’s a hammock or a gazing globe or a croquet court, this delightful book encourages you to follow your dreams.

Yoga for Computer Users by Sandy Blaine

We’ve all been guilty of it – spending too much time hunched in front of the computer, typing and clicking, either for work or entertainment. Pretty soon the stress of bad posture and repetitive motion catches up to you and your body reacts with aches and pains. Yoga for Computer Users was written with you in mind with a series of simple yoga poses targeting the neck, shoulders, wrists and hands. Each pose includes a list of specific benefits of the exercise, a detailed description of how to do the exercise and is illustrated with photographs. Many of the exercises can be done right at your desk and none require any equipment more complicated than a towel or a chair. They range from quick 5-minute breaks, to 30-minute sessions to do at home. There is also a section of lifestyle tips for adding yoga to your everyday life, such as become ambidextrous, strengthen your core, and balance your load. Blaine also recommends that you disconnect from technology when possible; she has made her Sundays computer free and was amazed at how restful and stress-reducing this practice has become. So, unkink that neck, stretch out those cramped fingers and enjoy sitting at your computer again.

Four Fun 4th of July Facts

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.” -Erma Bombeck

1. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two of the most influential founders of the United States and former Presidents, died within hours of each other on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the country they helped to create – July 4, 1826.

2. There’s a better than 1 in 4 chance that that hot dog you’ll eat on the Fourth originated in Iowa, the nation’s leading producer of hogs. It’s estimated that the number of hot dogs eaten by Americans on the 4th is 150 million.

3. There are 31 places in the United States that have the word “Liberty” in them. Iowa is the state with the most – Libertyville, West Liberty, North Liberty and New Liberty.

4. Fireworks imported from China to the United States in 2006 were valued at $216 million. Be sure to catch some of those fireworks at Red White and Boom tonight, a fireworks display on the riverfront presented by Davenport and Rock Island.

Summertime Anytime Cookbook by Dana Slatkin

We’re a long way from sunny southern California but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a taste of summer at the beach. The Summertime Anytime Cookbook by Dana Slatkin is filled with dazzling pictures and easy, hip recipes. It’s divided by mood rather than by meal or main ingredient (chapters include “Sunny Days”, “Balmy Nights”, and “Misty Mornings”) so you will want to take advantage of the index. While the emphasis is on fresh seafood and vegetables, favorites like pasta and chicken also appear. Deserts are simple and tend toward portable – bars and cookies – to take along on your beach picnic. Sprinkled throughout the books are ideas for bringing some of the beach home with you – such as how to make your backyard pool more inviting and decorating with shells and sand. Try some of the recipes now, while it’s warm and sunny and then again this winter, when it’s cold and snowy, just when you some summer memories the most.

Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook by Alan Rosen

WARNING: Just looking at this book may cause you to gain weight. (But it’s worth it)

Cheesecake, that little slice of heaven on a plate, reaches new heights in Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook by Alan Rosen. Junior’s, located in Brooklyn, has been renowned for their dreamy cheesecakes since they opened in 1950. Now their secrets, including how to bake a cheesecake so that it doesn’t crack on the surface and the recipe for their signature sponge cake crust, are available to everyone.

Want some variety with your cheesecake? Look no further. Recipes range from Classic New York Style to Cappuccino to Pumpkin Swirl to White Chocolate Raspberry. There are sections for Celebration Cakes (Easter Egg to Christmas Tree), chocolate (Brownie Swirl to Heath Bar), and layered ( Strawberry Shortcake to Boston Cream Pie) Along with lots of tips for professional results, you’ll soon be an expert cheesecake baker. And very popular with your friends and family!

The Pig Did It

Looking for a fun summer read? Try The Pig Did It by Joseph Caldwell.

This hilarious tale takes place on the lovely Emerald Isle. The main character, creative writing teacher Aaron McCloud, travels to County Kerry, Ireland, to immerse himself in self-pity following an unrequited love. He stays with his Aunt Kitty who happens to be a very successful author herself. She specializes in re-writing or “correcting” old literary classics. (You really don’t want to know what she’s done with Oliver Twist).

On his first day there, Aaron’s bus encounters an overturned truck with pigs running amok. In an effort to impress the attractive swineherd, Lolly McKeever, Aaron attempts to catch one of them. Though unsuccessful, the pig decides he likes Aaron, and literally follows him home. Before they can return him to his rightful owner (even though Lolly won’t claim the animal belongs to her) the pig digs up Kitty’s garden, thereby revealing the skeleton of the missing Declan Tovey. Who killed him? Well, Aunt Kitty accuses Lolly of the crime, Lolly accuses Kieran Sweeney, and Aaron suspects his Aunt — thus beginning this comedy of errors. At times the main characters seem to be speaking in soliloquies, but I guess they’ve all just kissed the Blarney Stone a time or two. This is a quick read (less than 200 pages), an enjoyable romp, and the first part of a planned trilogy. Catch it while you can.

Photographing Your Family by Joel Sartore

Summer means lots of opportunities for getting together with family – reunions, barbeques, vacations. Today’s small, simple-to-use cameras make it easy to capture the moments, big and small. Joel Sartore’s Photographing Your Family is a great place to find information not just on how to use your camera, but how to take great pictures.

One of the terrific things about this book is that Sartore has wonderful ideas for getting photos of the everyday events – a sleeping child, cookies being baked, time spent at the park or museum. Get in close, try different angles and work at capturing the personality of the person. Great photos are not stiff, formally posed portraits but the spontaneous snapshots of life in action.

Also included are tips that won’t overwhelm you on editing your images, pointers on composition, and ideas for storing and displaying your masterpieces. Because every day should be a day worth remembering.

Omaha Steaks The Great American Grilling Book

The Great American Grilling BookFinally! Warmer weather! Time to fire up the grill and cook some meat! Omaha Steaks The Great American Grilling Book is just the book to get you started (and salivating!) The emphasis here is on – duh – beef, but there are also loads of recipes for pork, chicken, lamb, fish and seafood. A whole chapter is devoted to gourmet burgers and kabobs. Vegies also get their share of attention as well as starters, rubs, sauces and marinades; there’s even a section on desserts.

No more excuses for the same old burgers and chicken – try something new!