The Christmas/End-of-Winter holiday season is a wonderful time of year but sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the chaos and endless to-do lists.  The librarians here at the Davenport Library Info Cafe blog offer some reasons for making time to stop and make the season “merry and bright” with their favorite holiday movies and books.

beholdastarI’ll get things started with my favorite Christmas music. Firmly rooted in tradition (there’s no “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” here!) but with a fresh and modern approach, the Quad City-area-based Nova Singers offer some of the most beautiful music of the season.

The Nova Singers is a 20-voice ensemble with a nationwide reputation and are known for their creative song choices and virtuoso performances. They’ve produced six recordings, three of which are made up of Christmas music. All of them are beautiful but Behold a Star is my favorite partly for the Nova Singer’s version of  “The 12 Days of Christmas” (you can tell they’re having a lot of fun with this) and partly because of the inclusion of “A Shoot Shall Come Forth” a gorgeous and unusual carol that speaks of renewal and peace and promise, exactly what the Christmas season is about.

The best part is that you can see the Nova Singers perform right here – they put on 8 concerts a year, divided between Galesburg and the Quad Cities. Their Christmas concerts this year will be held December 18 and 19. Be sure to check their website for times and locations. Then treat yourself and go – you’ll be glad you did!

BixIt’s time again to celebrate one of Davenport’s own – the Bix Beiderbecke Jazz Festival kicks off today with the 22nd annual Davenport Library Bix Porch Party at our Main library. There’ll be live music – provided by Don Estes and the Prairie Ramblers – hot dogs and free lemonade and popcorn. It all starts at 11:30am.

Interested in hearing more of Bix’s music? Be sure to check out Riverboat Shuffle or Bix Lives! from the library. If you’d like to learn more about the brilliant but brief life of Bix and the era he lived in, take a look at Remembering Bix: a Memoir of the Jazz Age by Ralph Berton or Bix: Man and Legend by Richard Sudhalter.

And don’t forget – grab a lawn chair and head to the Main Library for lots of great music and fun!

Bastille DayAnd you may be wondering how to commemorate this joyeux July 14th.  As all foodies know, no one takes more delight in their cuisine than the French. Why not check out Joanne Harris’ Chocolat? (in book or dvd format), a fable about the magical quality of chocolate. The film version is a sensual celebration of all forms of chocolate (and Johnny Depp).

A paperback copy of A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle was my constant companion on a trip through the Northeast, and became a scrapbook of sorts (stuffed with pamphlets, snack wrapper bookmarks and smeared with chocolate ice cream eaten in downtown Bar Harbor). Mayle loves his food so much, it’s impossible to feel guilty if you eat while reading his book.  The deep and abiding love of food and drink formed a bond with his Provencal neighbors – though their actions were often perplexing to him.

From Paris to the Moon is a more cerebral collection of essays, about a year in which Adam Gopnik moves from New York to Paris to immerse his family in the French language and way of life. He dissects cafe culture and the “crisis in French cuisine,” among many other things; what could be dry is instead a personal and fascinating insider’s view of an American in Paris.

love-you-momMother’s Day is quickly approaching — May 10th, in fact.  No doubt most of you have already planned your brunches and  bouquets in celebration of dear old Mom, and those are always appreciated.  Still, when I think back over the years, the mother’s day gifts that I most loved were those which were homemade: the cards with crayon pictures, the lilacs picked fresh from the garden, the attempts at breakfast in bed.  Still, one thing I never did for my own mom s-daughter1(or mother-in-law) was to write a thank you letter.  Now that they are both gone, I’m wishing I had.  Wishing that I’d worried less about fixing  a fancy meal with the good china and the white tablecloth in the dining room, wishing I’d spent less time looking for some sentimental card at the Hallmark store, and wishing instead that I had taken a few moments to write down in my own words how I felt.  To say thank you, to share a funny story, even, perhaps, to tease a little, but just doing it would show I cared.

If you think you might like to write your own letter to Mom, here are some books that might  give you some inspiration:

I Love You, Mom! A Celebration of our Mothers and Their Gifts to Us. This includes essays from celebrities like Larry King and Daisy Fuentes.

I Am My Mother’s Daughter: Making Peace with Mom Before it’s Too Late by Iris Krasnow.

presidentsdayOriginally set aside to honor George Washington (whose birthday is actually February 22), Presidents’ Day has unofficially expanded to include Abraham Lincoln (born on February 12) and sometimes even some other former Presidents, depending on what state you live in.

While many government offices and schools are closed today, both locations of the Davenport Public Library will be open as usual – the Main Library will be open noon to 8pm and the Fairmount Library will be open 9:30am-5:30pm.

Have a great day!