DVDs for December

December 1

smithsonianNight at the Museum : Battle of the Smithsonian –  Ben Stiller, Amy Adams

History is larger than life, and twice as funny, in this monumental comedy sequel. Larry Daley is a former night watchman at the Museum of Natural History, where the exhibits come to life after dark. Now Larry’s nocturnal friends are being retired to the archives of the Smithsonian Institution, luring him back for a hilarious, all-out battle against museum misfits who plan to take over the Smithsonian, and the world.

terminatorTerminator Salvation – Christian Bale

John Connor’s path into the future is altered by the appearance of Marcus Wright, a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row, and he must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet’s operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind.

December 8

half blood princeHarry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – Daniel Ratcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint

Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts for another year of schooling and learns more about the dark past of the boy who grew up to become Lord Voldemort. There was a time when Hogwarts was thought of as a safe haven, but thanks to Voldemort’s tightening grip on both the Muggle and wizarding worlds, that simply isn’t the case anymore.

juliaJulie and Julia – Meryl Streep, Amy Adams

Julia Child’s beginning in the cooking profession is intertwined with the life of thirty-year-old Julie Powell, who decides to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s first book in one year to escape from the monotony of her daily life.

December 15

bastardsInglourious Basterds – Brad Pitt

During World War II, a group of Jewish-American guerilla soldiers led by Lt. Aldo Raine, known as ‘The Basterds,’ are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. The Basterds soon cross paths with a French-Jewish woman who runs a movie theater in Paris which is targeted by the soldiers. A plot is set in motion to kill the Nazis at the theater’s movie premiere, including Adolf Hitler.

December 22

districtDistrict 9

Twenty years ago, aliens from another planet made contact with Earth. Now, the refugee camp they are forced to live in has deteriorated into a slum-like ghetto. When field operative Wikus van der Merwe is put in charge of evicting the aliens, he contracts a strange virus that changes his DNA to match that of the refugees. As his body begins to mutate, he becomes a hunted man, and the aliens’ only hope for freedom.

Mother’s Best by Lisa Schroeder

We finish up our week-long look at new cookbooks with a look at comfort food – always in season!

s bestThe winter holidays bring us back to home, to memories and to traditions. Now, even if you no longer go to grandmother’s house for you family dinner, you can bring some of those traditional foods to your own kitchen with the help of Mother’s Best by Lisa Schroeder.

Although leaning toward Southern favorites (pulled pork, biscuits and gravy, crab cakes) this book is filled with favorites from many different traditions and is based on a popular Portland, Oregon eatery. Recipes range from hummus to creamed spinach to french toast to tofu scramble. An entire chapter is devoted just to macaroni and cheese, the ultimate comfort food. Don’t dismiss these recipes as fuddy-duddy though – they’re written for the modern cook with straightforward instructions and lots of tips and hints. It’s almost as good as having Mom helping you out in the kitchen!

The Essential Dinner Tonight Cookbook from Cooking Light

In our next food focus post here at Davenport Library, let’s focus on quick and healthy. Don’t worry it’s still delicious!

cookinglightHere we are, teetering on the edge of the biggest season-of-excess of the year. Soon we’ll be under constant temptation – table-groaning feasts, endless varieties of dips and snacks, as-far-as-the-eye-can-see plates of cookies. But squeezing some healthy meals in amongst the chaos isn’t impossible and avoiding even a few fast food/pizza delivery options will pay off – maybe your January resolution to lose weight won’t be so daunting!

Cooking Light comes to the rescue with The Essential Dinner Tonight Cookbook. Great for any time of the year, the quick and simple recipes will fill you up without sacrificing good taste. A lot of the recipes are old favorites that have been reworked to be healthier – meatloaf, cheeseburgers, pizza – as well as lots of  fresh new ideas. Preperation is straightforward and quick – most make perfect weeknight meals. Menu ideas are included for each dish and a “game plan” to help you organize and get everything on the table at the same time. Cooking healthy couldn’t be easier – or tastier!

Cooking for Friends by Alison Attenborough and Jamie Kimm

Cooking for holidays continues here at Davenport with this mouthwatering book, great for the festive season – or any season.

cookingforfriendsThe holidays have always been about family and tradition, but the modern reality is that for many people, our blood relations are scattered across the country (and the world) While “coming home for the holidays” is a wonderful option, it’s not always possible. And so, if we’re lucky, our friends become our family.

Cooking for Friends by Alison Attenborough and Jamie Kimm celebrates these special people and times with simple, elegant recipes. There’s nothing too complicated or over-the-top here; the emphasis is on really great food and sharing it with some of your favorite people. Fresh, in-season ingredients and straightforward cooking techniques give this book a modern edge. Recipes run the gamut from drinks and starters to soups and salads to main dishes and desserts.

One great feature is their numerous “four ways” suggestions where they take one main ingredient and show four different ways to prepare it – “potatoes four ways” has whole potatoes with spring herbs, roasted fingerlings with garlic, red potatoes with gruyere and new potatoes with creme fraiche. You’ll also find an “inspired by” section which lists fruits, vegetables, herbs and even flowers that are available by season and then puts together menus that makes the best use of them.

The New Thanksgiving Table by Diane Morgan

It’s almost here – the non-stop food fest that we call “the Holiday Season”! The next six weeks, from Thanksgiving to New Years will be filled with eating opportunities galore. In any culture, sharing food – especially homemade food – brings together families, friends and communities, creating bonds that last. Putting together all of that food can be a lot of work though, so this week the Info Cafe blog is going to focus on some of the new cookbooks that are now available. Be sure to stop by the library and check out a copy!

newthanksgivingtableThanksgiving, a holiday celebrating the harvest, is all about food – there’s no pressure to find the perfect present or outdo the neighbors with your light display. It’s also maybe the most traditional – almost everyone automatically thinks of turkey when they think of Thanksgiving. It’s how you fix the turkey and your choice of side dishes where family traditions take over.

If you’re looking for something different, or if this is your first year hosting the big event, take a look at The New Thanksgiving Table by Diane Morgan with it’s traditional yet fresh approach to the meal. There is a nice variety of choices listed for the basics – turkey, stuffing, gravy, vegetables, deserts – with some interesting twists included. How about Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting instead of the ubiquitous  pumpkin pie? Or shake things up with Molly’s Pumpkin-and-Sage Lasagna.

Two chapters make this book a stand-out – “Regional Thanksgiving Menus with Timetables” that will help any cook plan for the big day, and “Leftover Favorites” which lists several tasty ways to deal with leftovers that go beyond the turkey sandwich.

And don’t despair if you can’t get ahold of this book in time for Thanksgiving – the autumn themed recipes will be just as delicious at Christmas or New Years, or any wintertime family gathering.

What do you think about Jackson Pollock?

University of Iowa Museum of Art, Gift of Peggy Guggenheim 1959.6 / © 2009 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / ARS, NY
University of Iowa Museum of Art, Gift of Peggy Guggenheim 1959.6 / © 2009 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / ARS, NY

Have you been over to the Figge Museum yet to see Mural by Jackson Pollock? The masterpiece is currently on display through December 31 as part of the exhibit titled A Legacy for Iowa: Pollock’s Mural and Modern Masterworks from the University of Iowa Museum of Art (which also includes works by Picasso, Matisse and Chagall). I’m not sure if it is the size, the intense strokes of color or just some unnameable aura, but this painting has always had the ability to weaken my knees and completely clear my head (This may explain why the museum always keeps the Eames lounge chairs nearby!). After taking in the painting for a few minutes or so, I suddenly find myself actively easedropping on the other viewers: “Look for cigarette ash!” or “I think it looks like dancing.” or “I read in the Smithsonian that Pollock spelled out his name.” or “I could paint that!” to which I often say in my head “But you didn’t!” Here are several movies related to Pollock and his work:

pollockThe University of Iowa’s Mural plays a prominent role in Pollock, a biopic of Jackson Pollock starring Ed Harris–the film includes a very intense scene where Pollock paints Mural in one feverish night before he presents it to famous art collector/patron, Peggy Guggenheim (who offered the painting to the University of Iowa in 1948).

whoisPollockImagine having something in your possession that is either worth over $100 million or less than $5 and no one can tell you which. Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock? tells the story of a woman, Teri Horton, who bought a cheap painting in a thrift shop only to have someone tell her that it could be an unknown work by Jackson Pollock. What intrigued me most about this movie was that upon seeing Teri’s painting, I had a very strong, persistent feeling that it was NOT done by Jackson Pollock despite the evidence presented. I had expected to be easily convinced.

mykidcouldpaintthatMy Kid Could Paint That is a documentary on kid painter Marla Olmstead and the controversy surrounding the authenticity of her paintings. At the heart of this movie is the question: What makes art, Art? the artist? the work? the idea? or the price it will fetch at an auction?

Beyond the Homestretch by Lynn Reardon

beyondthehomestretchFor most people, horse racing only appears on their radar in May when the Kentucky Derby is run, or maybe later in the summer during the Triple Crown races. These races showcase the stars of the sport – incredibly valuable, highly trained athletes, supremely talented and owned by the very wealthy. In the real world, the majority of the sport is in action year round, mostly on smaller, lesser known tracks, populated by work-a-day horses earning a living on a smaller stage.

Racing can be hard on a horse, and their career is often limited by injuries and age – a racehorse is considered old at 7 or 8 years old. What happens to these horses when they can no longer race? Many make a career change to polo ponies or jumpers, or as riding horses but there’s always the danger that they’ll end up in slaughter pens or with an inexperienced or abusive owner. Matching up the right personality and ability to the right owner takes patience and understanding and this is where Lynn Reardon steps in.

In 2002 Lynn created the non-profit LOPE (LoneStar Outreach to Place Ex-Racers) on her small ranch in Texas. Hundreds of Thoroughbreds have come through the ranch for retraining, rehabilitation and a chance for a new life. Lynn is no blue-blood, but a hard-working escapee from cubicle-land who didn’t learn to ride until she was an adult and who scrapes for donations and advice for her organization. Beyond the Homestretch is her story and the stories of the horses. Full of humor and insight and peopled with the unique characters that make up the world of racing, this is a can’t-put-down book. Never sentimental, Lynn describes the unique histories and personalities of each horse – their humor, their fears, their courage, their intelligence. And even as Lynn saves their lives, the horses become her best teachers and save her in return.

Be sure to visit LOPE’s website where you will find lots of extras including pictures of many of the horses featured in Beyond the Racetrack, a list of horses awaiting adoption and information about the ranch and the program goals.

I always knew Elizabeth Bennet was tough…

But I had no idea she was a highly trained zombie-killing Ninja!!!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen

It appears that Jane Austen may have left a few things out when she was showering her irony, wit and passive social consciousness all over the story of the five Bennet sisters and their adventures in society…for example: ZOMBIES! According to author Seth Grahame-Smith, the militia stationed at Meryton had a very specific reason to be there–to protect the village from a coming Zombie Attack. However, the officers really aren’t necessary because the Bennet sisters, particularly the two eldest, are known all over the countryside for their skills in kicking zombie butts. Other than that, the story strays little from the original Pride and Prejudice plot. Well… except for Mr. Darcy’s knack to crack inappropriate jokes. Yes, the author seems to have loosened up Mr. Darcy quite a bit, although in return Miss Lizzy is a very violent-hearted ice queen.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is more of a parody than a retelling, so those looking to be swept up in Regency romance and wit will not find it. I found myself reading it more to see how Grahame-Smith incorporated zombies into the plot then for the actual story. Expect a little gore and a lot of Jasper Fforde-esque humor.

More of a swamp thing than a zombie person? Check out Seth Grahame-Smith’s Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters!