Staycations and Day Tripping

The biggest factor in a successful vacation is achieving a change of perspective, and in these times of rising costs many people are choosing to “get away from it all” while staying close to home. The Quad Cities have a lot to offer – we’re a vacation destination for many. In fact, in an April, 2008 article entitled “Great River Road Trip” the National Geographic Traveler magazine recommends Davenport, Iowa, as the “most rewarding stop.” A family could have more than enough activities to fill a week’s worth of vacation right here at home.

The Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau has a wealth of recommendations and ideas for vacationing close to home. And if you’d like to explore surrounding areas, the site also has some great Day Tripping suggestions.

The Davenport Library recommends these titles for Iowa travel:

The Great Iowa Touring Book: 27 Spectacular Auto Tours by Mike Whye

Great Iowa Walks: 50 Strolls, Rambles, Hikes and Treks by Lynn L. Walters

Country Roads of Iowa by Loralee Wenger

Perhaps your family would enjoy a day trip, or longer, to one of the many beautiful Iowa State Parks. And, of course, there are many beautiful state parks across the river in Illinois.

Whatever you do, where ever you go in the QC region, have a great summer!

All Iowa Reads 2008 Selection

written by Angela

Have you read the “All Iowa Reads” selection for 2008, Digging to America, by Anne Tyler?

Unfamiliar with All Iowa Reads? Each year the Iowa Center for the Book, a program of the State Library of Iowa and an affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, chooses one book that they feel all Iowans statewide should read and talk about in a single year. Criteria used to select the All Iowa Reads title includes:

The book must:

* Be available in paperback, large print and unabridged audio

* Lend itself to in-depth discussion and raise universal social issues relevant to Iowans

* Be accessible to adults and high school age youth

It is desirable, but not required, that the book:

* Have an Iowa or Midwest connection

* Is a recent publication that has not been widely read

On June 11, the Library held a one-time-only book discussion of this modern literary tale of overseas adoption, friendship, and what it means to “be American.” The attendees had mixed emotions about this book, but all agreed that it was worth reading. The book averaged a “B” rating, and fueled a great discussion. For die-hard Anne Tyler fans, this book does not follow her traditional formula of writing. Although slightly humorous and satirical, the biggest criticism of the book was that Tyler did not explore characters as deeply as with past works like A Patchwork Planet and The Accidental Tourist. With that said, it’s still a great summer read!

Here’s a list of past All Iowa Reads titles that could help bulk up your reading list:

2007. Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio by Jeffrey Kluger

2006. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

2005. The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich

2004. Niagara Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken

2003. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

For more information about the Iowa Center for the Book, visit their website at: www.iowacenterforthebook.org.

Asian Vegetarian Feast by Ken Hom

written by Samantha

Asian Vegetarian FeastIf you’re a fan of Asian cuisine, you will definitely want to check out Ken Hom’s delightful cookbook Asian Vegetarian Feast: Tempting Vegetable and Pasta Recipes from the East. Hom is the author of more than 25 Asian cookbooks, and Asian Vegetarian Feast is one of his greats. While not strictly vegetarian (he frequently uses oyster sauce, chicken stock, and fish sauce in his recipes), the cookbook offers up an assortment of utterly delicious recipes which can generally be adapted for either a strict vegetarian diet or a meat-eater’s palate. Some favorties include Vietnamese-Style Vegetarian Spring Rolls (easier than you might think!), Corn and Ginger Soup, Cantonese-Style Bean Curd with Chinese Greens, and his Hot and Sour Noodles recipe, a nod to the beginning of his career when he taught people to make homemade pasta while studying art history at Berkeley. For the most part, the recipes are simple and clear, though a few may require a special trip to your local Asian grocery store. It’s well worth the trip, though, as the end results are fantastic. And don’t miss his incredibly informative sections on ingredients and techniques, as they are filled with advice on topics such as picking out good soy sauce and properly stir-frying vegetables. Great Asian recipes from one of the leading authorities on Asian cuisine.

Liquid lunch

Okay, it’s not the best for the ol’ waistline, but it sure helps get the lawn mowed. Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione is a useful tool for novice zymurgists. Pssst…that’s geek speak for folks that make their own beer.

While The Complete Joy of Homebewing by Charlie Papazian is considered the de facto standard for homebrew instruction, I find Calagione’s book a much more pleasurable read. It is practical, gives hints for cutting corners, and suggests ways to kick recipes up a notch.

Unlike most homebrew books, this guide is loaded with attractive full color photos which makes it especially useful. Also, Mr. Calagione is the owner and founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, so you know he knows what he’s talking about.

And if you screw up, you’ve got 5 gallons of bratwurst marinade.

Bend-the-Rules Sewing by Amy Karol

After fading as a home craft for awhile, sewing is popular again. Fresh new fabric designs, the embracing of retro styles (aprons are super popular) and the desire for handcrafted items have fueled the new interest. Bend-the-Rules Sewing by Amy Karol fits right in with this new wave of sewing. She offers simple, practical designs that are both sophisticated and innovative. Her instructions are straightforward and encouraging; even a beginner can quickly – and successfully – get started. Projects range from tote bags to pillows to bibs to a lap quilt and are easily adaptable to your skills and interests. The hard part will be picking out the perfect fabric!

4 Fun Things to Do with Dad

Looking for something to do with your favorite guy this weekend? Celebrate Father’s Day with one of these fun activities you can share.

1. Ride the River. This fun bike ride on Sunday not only takes you on a tour of the Quad Cities, you get to cross the river on the Celebration Belle. Winding through Davenport, Bettendorf, Moline, East Moline and Rock Island, returning via the Centennial Bridge, this is a great way to see your community up close. Because of expected flooding this year, some of the route will be changed but will still start from the Union Station in Davenport. Be sure to wear your helmet!

2. Go the All-American route and take in a baseball game. The Quad City River Bandits will be playing the Beloit Snappers this Sunday at 1pm, weather and field conditions permitting. Treat Dad to a hot dog and watch the home runs fly.

3. Prefer to stay indoors? Check out the DVD collection at the Davenport Library and pick out a movie (maybe one featuring a superhero to watch with your own hero!) Just add popcorn and soda for your own private screening.

4. Take Dad fishing. West Lake Park just outside of Davenport offers four lakes to fish for bluegill, crappie and largemouth bass. The park also has hiking trails, campgrounds, picnic tables and boat rentals.

Share a memory – they’re ten times better than a tie!

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.

The Armchair Traveler Goes to Russia

Russia, that great giant that straddles both the West and the East, has a long and often bloody history, a unique culture and a diverse people. Many great classics have been written by Russians but what to read after War and Peace? (You have read War and Peace, right?!) Try these for more insight (and a decidedly quicker read) into the Russian soul.

The Dog Who Bit a Policeman by Stuart Kaminsky

Twelfth in the series, this follows one-legged Moscow cop Porfiry Rostnikov in a post-Soviet Russia that is rife with corruption. Among other things, Porfiry deals with an illegal dogfighting ring, the Moscow Mafia, murders, and various personal problems. This is engrossing storytelling at its best.

Russka by Edward Rutherford

Presenting a sweeping historical overview of Russia in the style of James Michener, Rutherford delivers an epic story focusing on how historical events affect the common person through the generations.

The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander

A fictional retelling of the final days of Czar Nicholas II and his family as witnessed by a young kitchen boy who has kept what he saw secret. Now an old man and about to die, he’s ready to tell the truth. Filled with historically accurate details, this is a beautifully written novel with a surprise ending.

The Industry of Souls by Martin Booth

Mistaken for a spy, British citizen Alexander Bayliss spends 25 years in a Soviet gulag and the next 20 in a Russian village. When his family discovers he is still alive, he must decide whether to stay or return to England. This amazing novel reveals the human side of gulag life, how the collapse of the Soviet Union affected her people and the strength of the common man.

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

Introducing Inspector Arkady Renko, this modern classic is the must read novel of Soviet Russia. Cynical, honest, brilliant, Renko investigates a triple murder where the victims fingers and faces are missing. Intelligent writing, complex mysteries, dark humor and real tension combine to make this one of the best mysteries ever written. Future installments, which follow Renko thru post-Soviet Union turmoil, are also highly recommended.

Did Poirot Get it Horribly Wrong?

Agatha Christie’s mystery, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a beloved classic; however, critics have said that Christie broke a fundamental rule of mystery writing when she revealed her murderer. How could this author, so renowned for her puzzle-making ability, have have made such a mistake? And, of course, no one thought to question detective Hercule Poirot’s conclusions. Until now.

Pierre Bayard has written a delightfully enjoyable mystery about Christie’s book. (Spoiler alert: if you intend to read Christie’s book first, then don’t click on the Bayard link because the murderer [as revealed by Christie] is revealed in the book’s description.) In his book, Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? Bayard questions Poirot’s conclusions and makes a very strong case for his argument that the famed detective is wrong!

If it’s been a while since you’ve read the original, you might want to read that first and then pick up Bayard’s book (although Bayard’s book stands up perfectly well on its own). If you’re a fan of mysteries (and even if you don’t particularly like Agatha Christie) you won’t be disappointed.


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