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Erika

  • Rarely Seen FB event

     

    Last year, we published a list of six free library dates; this year, we thought we’d give an update with specific things you can do this December at the library. It’s a proven fact that doing something interesting at the library is way better than awkwardly exchanging resumes and “how many siblings do you have…?” stories over dinner. 

    1. Visit our “Rarely Seen” exhibit 

    The Attic is the perfect place for a date; though it was a bustling madhouse this summer with our Little Builders exhibit, it’s returned to its roots as a gallery for fantastic art, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be hosting “Rarely Seen” from National Geographic (yes, THAT National Geographic). This traveling exhibit features photographs of rarely seen phenomena, from natural wonders to man-made curiosities. 

    What makes this a great date? First, The Attic is still enjoying a bit of a “hidden gem” status, so your date will likely be impressed with your insider library knowledge. Second, each photo is a conversation in itself. That’s 50 potential conversations waiting to happen, conversations that are WAY more interesting than, “So…what’s your major?” 

    We’re open Monday-Friday from 3:30 to 9:00 pm, and you can catch this exhibit until December 29. After that, we’ll close for a few weeks while we switch over to a new exhibit, at which point you can go on another date. 

    2. Get some culture 

    Last week, Shaina posted about the various holiday performances we’re hosting this December. This does mean that you’ll have to have a Monday night date, but it will be worth it! 

    If you miss our December performances, never fear; we have cultural performances the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month from September through May. Enjoy an evening with local music, dance, and theatre groups, all without breaking the bank (because it’s free. Everything is free!).  

    3. Solve a (fictional) murder 

    You may have already played our Whodunit Mystery Game, but it’s undergone a recent revamp and it’s better than ever! Participants travel from room to room in the library trying to solve a mystery, similar to the game Clue, by Parker Brothers. Some of your favorite villains have been causing mayhem in the library. The winner will correctly guess the suspect, location, and the weapon involved in the crime.  

    This is a great group date; we don’t recommend it for fewer than 3 (or, since that would be a strange date, we’ll say 4) or more than 18. This game takes about an hour to complete, and can be scheduled for any time the library is open (we just need at least one week’s notice to make sure we’re available). 

    4. Get trapped together…and escape! 

    Escape Rooms are all the group date rage right now, and rightly so. Nothing says, “I think I might really like you and want to get to know you better” than solving a series of complicated puzzles together. It’s a great way to make sure you’re not dating a dummy. 

    Our current escape room is Harry Potter-themed; no prior knowledge of Harry Potter is required, though it certainly won’t hurt! 

    The escape room works best with 4 to 8 players, but requests for groups of other sizes can be considered on a case-by-case basis. Adults ages 18 and up will enjoy the game the most.  Teens may enjoy the game, but we ask that they be accompanied by at least one adult. Like our Whodunit game, requests must be made at least one week in advance. 

    5. Build more than a relationship 

    We know the dilemma; you want to go on a date, but you also just really want to stay at home and play with toys. Well, with our on-demand boxes, you don’t have to choose! We have a variety of builder-themed boxes available for checkout in the library. From magna-tiles to KEVA planks and more, you can spend an evening building cool things; go out for ice cream afterwards and then give yourself a high five for planning a date that 10-year-old you would be proud of. 

    The best part of all of these dates? The memories, obviously. But also, they’re all free. All the time. So what are you waiting for? Schedule a library date today!

  • resolution

     

    It’s a new year, and that seems like as good a time as any to suggest the following resolution to you; it’s totally achievable, and has nothing to do with weight loss or home organization (though if those are some of your resolutions, we certainly have some books and programs to help). Here's your perfect New Year's resolution: 

    Get your money’s worth out of the library!

    To help you achieve this most enjoyable of resolutions, here’s a spotlight on some of our services that you may not have discovered yet:

    Discovery Kits

    Caroline recently wrote a blog post about Discovery Kits from the children’s department, and I actually feel like I can’t pitch it better than she did, so I’m going to quote her here: 

    “Many of our patrons have already discovered Discovery Kits (one of the best kept secrets of the Children’s Department) and know just how fun they can be. For our patrons who don’t know what a Discovery Kit is, now is a great time to get acquainted. Discovery Kits are a selection of themed books, toys, and activity ideas appropriate for kids ages 3-5, and each one is filled with enough fun to fill days and days. The Discovery Kits check out as a set and you can keep them for three weeks. That means you have three weeks to play with all the toys, read all the books, and do all the things suggested in the included activity binder. When your three weeks are up, just bring the kit back to the Children’s Reference Desk and you can make a reservation for another one. The best part is that you can now make a reservation for a Discovery Kit online on the library website. “ 

    As a parent, I can just attest that these are awesome (as long as you don’t have a toddler that does things like shove small toys down a slightly broken heater vent; if that’s the case in your house, you may not want to check out a kit with a lot of small pieces). It’s a great way to have some fun, themed play without having to invest in new toys or books myself. 

    Boxes & Games

    Want your kids to be able to play with awesome building toys but not sure you want the potential entropy that might introduce in your home? I talked about our new in-library boxes as an idea for a great library date, but they’re good for more than that. We have several STEM exploration-themed boxes available for you to check out in the library. All the building fun, none of the mess in your own home! 

    We also have several board games available to check out for those times you find yourself with friends in the library with a few hours to kill. If you’re a gamer, it’s a great way to try before you buy. 

    All-ages programs

    If you’ve glanced at our calendar recently, you know that we host dozens of programs every week, most of them for the under 12 crowd. However, we’ve recently added a new tag to the calendar to help you find things that anyone can enjoy. These all-ages programs include musical performances, family tech nights, Attic exhibits, and other activities that can be enjoyable whether you’re a single college student, a family with children of diverse ages, or an empty nester. 

    Book Club Sets

    If you have a regular book club, our book club sets can be a fantastic resource for you. We update our offerings regularly, and we have a variety of genres to appeal to every kind of book club. We have plenty of titles for adults, but we also have a wide variety of middle-grade and young adult book club sets! 

    Sets check out for 6 weeks, which gives a monthly book club a good healthy chance to read the book and set up a meeting to talk about it. Plus, every book club set comes with a handy binder full of discussion topics. 

    Computer Help Lab

    Thanks to a partnership with United Way, we are happy to be able to offer one-on-one computer help for those times when your computer needs are more in-depth than our desk staff can help with.

    Every Tuesday and Thursday from 2:00-5:00 pm, a staff member from United Way is available to answer your questions. They can help you learn computer basics, set up an email address, learn to navigate social media, or even find online software or job training. If you or someone you know could benefit from this kind of personalized help, visit them in the Special Collections room on Tuesday or Thursday.

  • magical circuses

     

    Read-alikes: library jargon for “If you like this, you’ll probably also like this other thing!” Those of us who work at libraries are constantly on the hunt for read-alikes both as a professional courtesy to our patrons and as a way to satisfy our own voracious reading appetites. 

    (We have a variety of resources to find great read-alikes; the easiest way to find them is to click on the “Reading Suggestions” tab of our website). 

    One read-alike game I like to play is to find similar books across audiences. Can I find the writing qualities and characteristics of adult fiction authors I love in a middle-grade book? What about a book for teens? It’s a little bit like watching fiction grow up. So today I have for you three books that I feel like share some striking similarities even though they’re written for vastly different audiences. Three books; three audiences; three magical settings rich with detail and complex characters. Magical realism for all ages. 

    MIDDLE-GRADE 

    11.2.17 Circus MirandusCIRCUS MIRANDUS
    By Cassie Beasley
    (2015)

    Micah Tuttle has grown up hearing stories of a magical circus his grandpa visited as a boy. Now that his grandpa is dying, he sets off to find the mysterious circus in order to save his grandpa’s life. The narrative jumps back and forth between present day Micah and his new friend/school project partner Jenny on their quest to save his grandpa and his grandpa’s experiences as a boy at the circus. Kids with vivid imaginations will love the lush description of Circus Mirandus. 

     

     

    YOUNG ADULT

    11.2 CaravalCARAVAL
    By Stephanie Garber
    (2017)

    Okay, this one isn’t exactly a circus, but it is a magical, carnival-like setting. With an arranged marriage on the horizon, Scarlett figures this is her only chance to realize her dream of seeing Caraval, a legendary audience-participation event. When she and her sister arrive, things get much more complicated than they imagined, and the consequences turn dire fairly quickly.

    As is the case for most young adult books, we trade the innocent guy/girl helpful friendship of the middle-grade years for a fast-paced, “I hate you/I love you” storyline.There is banter; there is kissing; there is action, and adventure, and magic, and a carousel that my imagination loves to ride again and again. 

    ADULT FICTION 

    11.2.2017 The Night CircusTHE NIGHT CIRCUS
    By Erin Morgenstern 
    (2011) 

    I could go on and on about THE NIGHT CIRCUS; I read it about a year after its release, and I’ve honestly been looking for adequate read-alikes ever since. It wasn’t until this year that I’ve actually felt like I found them (hence this post!). Reading THE NIGHT CIRCUS is a sensory experience; not many novels can hold up to occasional second-person narration, but it’s perfect here. When I read it, I crave caramel popcorn and hot chocolate. The descriptions of the circus are rich and vivid and I’m always sad it doesn’t exist for real. 

    THE NIGHT CIRCUS is a long, magical game, pitting two champions, Celia and Marco, against one another in a magical battle to the death (though it takes years of competing to realize this). In THE NIGHT CIRCUS, we trade that fierce, instant love of teenage years (CARAVAL takes place over just three days!) for a nuanced relationship born in intrigue and cultivated through hearty and beautiful and, ultimately, deadly competition.

    I should also mention that I’ve listened to all three of these as audiobooks, and I actually recommend that if you’ve got the time and resources (which you do, thanks to the library!). This is especially the case with THE NIGHT CIRCUS, which is read by Jim Dale and is just delightful.

  • childbirth

    I have long maintained that the Library can help you with anything: right now it’s helping fuel my child’s Paw Patrol obsession, but I’ve found the Library useful for less trivial things as well.

    Three years ago, I was pregnant, and like any pregnant lady I was faced with about a thousand decisions I’d never had to make before. What would we name the baby? What baby gear was actually necessary? What kind of birth experience did I want to have?

    Fairly certain that I wanted to have an unmedicated birth, I buckled down and started reading. Since other authors have already shared some favorite intimacy books and favorite pregnancy books, I figured maybe we'd complete the cycle and write a blog post about books to prepare for the actual birthing process. The books I share with you here were my favorites in helping inspire and prepare me for the kind of birth experience I wanted to have. 

    I feel like I shouldn’t have to give this disclaimer, but I will anyway: these are books that I found useful. They were wonderful in helping me prepare for labor and delivery. Books are great, but they don’t replace doctors or midwives. Read some books, but see medical professionals too.

    I should also note that all these books have a strong preference for unmediated labor and delivery. If that’s not really an opinion you share, I might not recommend them. You make the choices that work for you. 

    8.3.17.Ina MayINA MAY'S GUIDE TO CHILDBIRTH
    by Ina May Gaskin
    (2003)

    Ina May is probably the best-known midwife in the country; though I admit I’m still a little skeptical about her claims that childbirth can be pain-free (mine certainly wasn’t!), my favorite thing about her books is the fact that they are packed full of stories of women being strong and having successful birth experiences. I think some books about pregnancy and childbirth spend a lot of time focusing on ALL THE POSSIBLE THINGS THAT COULD GO WRONG, so I appreciate hearing stories of all the ways that things can go right. It's nice to feel empowered into decisions rather than scared into them. 

     

     

    8.3.17.bradleyNATURAL CHILDBIRTH THE BRADLEY WAY
    by Susan McCutcheon
    (1996)

     When doing preliminary research on natural childbirth methods, there were so many people raving about “The Bradley Method” that I decided to check it out. As I understand it, the basic Bradley approach goes something like this: “Animals in labor relax through it. You can too.” (I'm probably way over-simplifying that. Don't freak out.) The Bradley method emphasizes comfortable labor positions and relaxed breathing, trying to dispel the myth that childbirth needs to involve screaming in agony. There are probably classes you can take and other books to read, but I found that this book was sufficient for me to help me be more relaxed about the labor process.

     

    8.3.17.birthing from withinBIRTHING FROM WITHIN
    by Pam England
    (1998)

    This was the book one of my midwives recommended, and I’ll be honest: I didn’t finish it all the way. I’m really open to breathing exercises and meditation and things, but I start to draw the line at suggestions that I get a canvas and paint my feelings about birth. You might think that’s super awesome, and if so, read this book all the way through.

    I include it in this list because the book starts with a simple but engaging question that proved incredibly useful as I prepared for labor: we need to ask our own questions, and then honestly seek answers to those questions in order to be prepared for birth.

    So many birth plans ask questions for us, but BIRTHING FROM WITHIN emphasizes discovering our own big questions. My biggest question was this: “How do I handle pain?” Realizing that that was my biggest concern, everything I read and researched was in service of figuring out the best ways to handle my pain in ways that were beneficial.

     

    8.3.17. Yoga BirthTHE YOGA BIRTH METHOD
    by Dorothy Guerra
    (2013)

    This was my favorite book, hands down. I actually bought a copy to have on my Kindle so that I could be sure to have it with me in the hospital. If you don’t practice yoga you might not think that this book is for you, but the breathing exercises, stretches, and general information it provides are useful for even the casual yoga practitioner (I would put myself in this category; I love to practice yoga, but I’m certainly not doing it every day).

    I loved this book for two major reasons: first, though nearly every book I read contained a description of what happens during the labor and delivery process, I thought this one was the most straightforward and helpful description of all the steps my body and my baby needed to go through in order to get him here. Second, I loved that it offered a trimester-by-trimester series of poses that could help relieve some of the pain and pressure associated with pregnancy.

    Did I do yoga in my hospital room? No, I did not. I did, however, breathe in the ways it suggests, and I actually still find those breathing exercises useful for unmedicated pain relief. Now that I'm pregnant again, you can bet this one's on my reading list. 

     

  • 2015 01

    Our 2015 was pretty great; how was yours? 

  • The Art of Sport is an exhibit curated by the Provo City Library from the collection of a local sports enthusiast. This is the last week to view the exhibit; if you're longing to relive great moments in sports history, now is the time to come and visit us in The Attic! 

    The Attic is open every weekday from 5-9pm and Saturday from 1-6pm, and is located on the 4th floor of the Academy Wing (accessible only by elevator). 

    art of sport 01

  • As you may know, we love hosting authors here at the Provo City Library! This month we've got visits planned from Julie Berry and Darren Shan, and next month we'll welcome Kenneth Oppel and David Wiesner. Get full event details on our AuthorLink page. 

    authorlink 01

  • david wiesner 01

  • Have you visted our Homegrown Art Show yet? It's on display in the Attic and in the Anderson Art Gallery; the Attic is open every weekday from 5-8 and on Saturdays from 10-6. 

    Homegrown 01

  • monday night 01

    Want to see a schedule of upcoming Monday Night programs? We've got a page for that!

  • Preschool Play is available in the children’s department Mondays from 11:00 am-12:00 pm and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, from 4:00 pm-6:00 pm. Toys are placed in the story circle available for open-ended play, especially suited for preschool-aged children. Curious how many toys we have? (hint: it's a lot)

    preschool play 01

  • The Attic at Academy Square sometimes feels like a secret--you can only access it by elevator in the Academy Wing, and in terms of this building's rich history, the Attic is still relatively new. However, we don't want it to be a secret--we want everyone to come! We've got some exciting exhibits planned for this next year, including our second annual Homegrown Art Show (now accepting entries!). Our next exhibit will open on February 16; come and find us on the 4th floor of the Academy Wing. 

    Attic By the Numbers 01

  • volunteers 01

  • threenager

    Over the past two years, I’ve checked in periodically to share my son’s favorite books. It’s been fun to look back on his past favorites (as a one-year-old and then as a toddler), and to see his interests growing up and diversifying as he gets older. It's possible that as his parent, I find these posts more interesting than anyone else, but I feel like it’s worth checking in on the blog every year, because whether you’re reading to a baby or a toddler or a threenager, you always need good books.

    Now that Calvin is three, he’s a little bit more interested in reading lots of different kinds of books rather than the same books over and over. As you’ll see, he spends a lot of time in the 500’s (nonfiction animal books), but he also loves Dr. Seuss and Mo Willems.

    It’s getting harder to pick his favorites; what I’ve chosen to highlight here are the books that Calvin keeps asking us to get every time he comes to the library (which is often). There’s also a strong bent toward books that I enjoy reading out loud, because if you are also someone who spends a lot of time reading to children, you will know that not all books are created equal in this regard. I want Calvin to have books he’s interested in, but our reading is a shared experience, and it’s nice if I can enjoy it too.

     

    4.19 SpidersSPIDERS
    by Nic Bishop
    (2007)

    Calvin is obsessed with bugs and creepy crawly things. When we go to the aquarium, he runs to see the bird-eating tarantula; when we play outside, much time is devoted to catching and attempting to feed various insects (Calvin is always dismayed that Box Elder Bugs don’t seem interested in sticking around for the feast he’s created out of grass and twigs). I credit a lot of this interest to a copy of SPIDERS by Nic Bishop that I brought home from our Used Book Store. 

    If you have small people living in your house and haven’t checked out Nic Bishop’s books yet, repent immediately and get them. Nic Bishop is a photographer first, and it shows. However, one of my favorite things about his books is that they offer a lot of information but remain easy to read aloud (a surprisingly difficult balance to strike!). Calvin’s favorites so far are SPIDERS, BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS, and SNAKES, but we haven’t really met a Nic Bishop book we haven’t liked.

     

    4.19 Zombie MakersZOMBIE MAKERS: TRUE STORIES OF NATURE’S UNDEAD 
    by Rebecca L. Johnson
    (2013)

    This book is cool and gross. Calvin loved it so much we exhausted our renewal options from the library. For the first week we had it, Calvin asked for this book by saying, “Can we read that book that has that worm coming out of that girl’s leg?” Great bedtime book or stuff of nightmares? You decide… 

    ZOMBIE MAKERS is about parasitic organisms that cause involuntary reactions in their hosts’ bodies. From a fungus that makes a fly stop flying (does that mean it’s called a walk?) to a virus that makes rats attracted to cats, this book makes you realize how bizarre the world can be. It also makes me realize that wasps are the biggest jerks in the animal kingdom. You’ll have to read more to find out why! 

     

    4.19 Pigeon NeedsTHE PIGEON NEEDS A BATH
    by Mo Willems
    (2014)

    It’s hard to choose which Mo Willems book is Calvin’s favorite; between the Elephant and Piggie books and the Pigeon books, there’s usually at least one of them in the bedtime lineup. But THE PIGEON NEEDS A BATH was our first, and I credit it for teaching my toddler the phrase “That is a matter of opinion!”, so it gets the feature here. 

    I love voicing the pigeon. He is witty; he is funny; he is easily exasperated. I laugh every time when he complains that the bath water is “too reflective.” The pigeon is, really, an eloquent toddler, incredibly stubborn until he’s forced to try something new and discovers that it’s his new favorite thing. I think the character of the pigeon hits on the sometimes absurdity of these small people that share our houses, and helps us all laugh a little at those times when someone refuses to bathe or asks again and again to do something that they aren’t allowed to do. 

     

    4.19 Bartholomew OobleckBARTHOLOMEW & THE OOBLECK
    by Dr. Seuss
    (1949)

    I said I only wanted to share books that I enjoyed reading, but I lied a little bit. Maybe you are more Dr. Seuss savvy than I, but the thing that surprised me when we first read this book together is that it does not rhyme! I try not to be bothered by it, but it’s a bit strange read a Dr. Seuss book without that Dr. Seuss signature cadence.   

    BARTHOLOMEW AND THE OOBLECK is the story of a king’s disastrous decision to try to rule the sky as well. In his hubris, he asks for his magicians to create something to fall from the sky other than the standard sun, rain, and snow his kingdom is used to. What he gets is oobleck, a sticky green goo that mucks everything up. I don’t know why Calvin loves this book, but he asked to check it out every time we came to the library, even if we already had it checked out (at one point we had two copies from two different libraries). My only thought is that he really likes the look of various people and livestock covered in green goop. 

     

    4.19 Ballet Cat SecretBALLET CAT: THE TOTALLY SECRET SECRET
    by Bob Shea
    (2015)

    Calvin really likes all the Ballet Cat books, but I think that THE TOTALLY SECRET SECRET is his favorite favorite. Like many easy readers, this one’s done all in dialogue, and is especially fun if you can have two readers to voice the different characters. We love the simple art; we love the different colored pages; we love this story about friends learning that it’s important to listen to each other. Our only complaint about the Ballet Cat books is that there aren’t more of them!

     
  • construction books

     

    I am the parent of a toddler. Right now, he’s pretty well obsessed with three things: dogs (Paw Patrol specifically, though he likes dogs generally), cats, and construction vehicles. Lucky for us, it’s not hard to find books to satisfy all these obsessions, especially since our children’s department has a “Things that Go” hot topic section.

    Before I get to my list of favorite books from the “Things that Go” section, let me gush a little about Hot Topics. Before I became a parent, it seemed like a good idea to reorganize a large number of our picture books by topic rather than by author. Now that I’m a parent, I realize it's genius. Kids tend to go through phases of intense interest, and it’s SO NICE to be able to go to one place to find all the construction vehicle picture books instead of having to hunt them down in the stacks with a toddler in tow. We’ve found books we probably never would have checked out and they’ve become some of our favorites. I can reliably walk out with a stack of 10-15 books and know my son will be interested in all of them. With topics like ABCs, Colors, Princesses, Super Heroes, Potty Training, and more, the Hot Topics section is one of my favorite library parenting hacks. 

    That said, here are some of our favorite books we’ve found during our many visits to the “Things that Go” section that are sure to please your construction-loving toddler.

    9.7.17 ConstructionCONSTRUCTION
    by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock
    (2014)

    Construction is a book about—you guessed it—construction! This great read-aloud has illustrations that I find interesting, great rhymes and rhythm, and sound effects that you get to decide how to pronounce! These are Calvin’s favorite part, though he’s at an age where he’s asking what every unfamiliar word means and I don’t really know what to say when he asks me what “Thwock” means. 

    9.7.17 DemolitionDEMOLITION
    by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock
    (2012)

    This is the second book in the Sutton/Lovelock construction trilogy (the first is actually ROADWORK, which is great but not quite as much of a favorite), and the things I said about CONSTRUCTION pretty much apply here too. One thing I appreciate about these books is that I feel like I learn things too. Did you know that old concrete gets crushed up and recycled into new concrete? Also, these two books are the only two books my son has actively protested returning to the library.

    9.7.17 Dig Dogs DigDIG, DOGS, DIG: A CONSTRUCTION TAIL
    by James Horvath
    (2013)

    This one follows a sort of “day in the life” of a dog at a construction site (where dogs are fully capable workers and not just tag-a-longs). It’s another good read-aloud, and it’s got dogs and constructions vehicles and a DINOSAUR BONE, so it’s right up Calvin’s alley.

     

    9.7.17 Mighty MightyMIGHTY, MIGHTY CONSTRUCTION SITE
    by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
    (2017)

    I’ve already written about GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT CONSTRUCTION SITE (which we still read often), so I thought I’d share the sequel, MIGHTY MIGHTY CONSTRUCTION SITE. Every bit as charming as its predecessor, this volume introduces some new friends to help build a building! I loved the emphasis on partnership, I love the introduction of the new trucks, and I love the way the two books complement and frame one another. 

    9.7.17 Construction KittiesCONSTRUCTION KITTIES
    by Judy Sue Goodwin-Sturges, illustrated by Shari Halpern
    (2013)

    I’m going to be honest: this one was not my favorite, but Calvin LOVED it. This reminds me a lot of DIG, DOGS, DIG!, from the “day in the life” aspect to the actual thing they’re building (spoiler alert: it’s a park. In at least half of the kids’ books about construction, they build parks).  But there are cats, and there are construction vehicles, and sometimes that’s all you need. He'll sometimes end the book by asking, "Can we be construction kitties?" which, of course, we can. If you need me, I'll be meowing and driving a backhoe loader. 

     

  • cooking the books 01

    So here we are in March, and I am surprised and delighted to say that my decision to cook more, eat better, and lose weight is still holding out. Did I still eat Wendy’s for lunch today? Yes, yes I did. However, I’m down 15 lbs. from the beginning of January. It’s slow progress, but it’s still progress!  

    To keep on top of my goal, I checked out SKINNYTASTE FAST AND SLOW. I love the very concept of this book, which is filled with slow cooker meals (for those days when you have a bit of time in the morning but a hectic afternoon) and quick-fix meals (for those days when everything is hectic). I’ve already planned to make at least three more recipes from this book.  

    If you’ve been following along for my series so far, you’ll know that I’m always on the hunt for simple, quick, and tasty recipes. This one fits the bill quite nicely; with only six ingredients, the prep work for this one is as fast as you can chop an onion and dismantle a head of cauliflower.  

    I’m not going to lie, when I got all the ingredients in the pot it looked like an insane amount of cauliflower. Looking down at the pot, I wondered if this was going to be one of those times that a recipe billed as “healthy” just ends up tasting like nothing.  

    cauliflower

    This is an actual depiction of the cauliflower:liquid ratio.

    Happily, I was wrong. Everything comes together for a soup that gives the feeling of a cream soup without most of the calories that make cream soups so delicious. At 91 calories for a 1 ½ cup serving, you can pair this with a grilled cheese sandwich (which I did) and have dinner on the table 30 minutes from the time you started chopping vegetables, and if that’s not a win for a weeknight dinner I don’t know what is.  

    skinnytaste fast and slow

    Dad’s Cauliflower Soup
    from SKINNYTASTE FAST AND SLOW: KNOCKOUT QUICK-FIX AND SLOW COOKER RECIPES
    by Gina Homolka
    (2016)  

     

     

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    4 cups reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
    1 medium head cauliflower, chopped (about 20 ounces)
    ½ cup chopped onions
    ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    microgreens for garnish (optional)  

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    In a medium nonstick pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until golden in color, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, cauliflower, and onions. Increase the heat to medium, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender until smooth (or in a stand blender, in two batches). Season with the salt. Serve hot. Ladle 1 ½ cups into each of 4 bowls and garnish* with microgreens, if desired.    

    *let’s get real here; I garnished with cheese. I'm losing weight, but ain't nobody got time to find microgreens.

  • cooking the books 01

    Growing up, there are some foods that I just assumed were gross. Foods I associated with bad cafeteria fare; you know the ones. Meatloaf. Chicken Fried Steak. And, of course, Sloppy Joes. 

    As an adult, I’ve come to realize that these foods are not inherently gross! In fact, ever since trying this recipe for Sloppy Joes, I’m convinced that there are tons of ways that Sloppy Joes can go right in such a way that I actually prefer them to their less messy hamburger cousins. 

    When I was restocking our Used Book Store this month, I was delighted to find that the adult department has been weeding our cookbook section, which means that the nonfiction section of our book store will be full of a variety of gently used cookbooks for the next month or two. The title PARENTS NEED TO EAT TOO (by Debbie Koenig) jumped out at me, as I’ve found myself in that terrible time of parenting a toddler that has me constantly saying things like, “Chips are not real food,” and “You have to eat something other than cheese!” After these endless conversation loops, I find myself with less and less motivation to cook something real for the adults in the house that will actually eat real food. Am I willing to pay $1 for a cookbook written by someone who gets me? Why yes, yes I am! 

    This book is divided into chapters that helpfully propose a variety of solutions to the lack of time/energy that new parents often face. There is a chapter on cooking with pantry staples, a chapter devoted to slow cookers, etc. This recipe comes from the chapter devoted to big batch cooking, an idea that you cook one recipe but make enough to stock your freezer with a few ready-made meals for those days when you just can’t even. 

    These Sloppy Joes were nice and tangy, and the chipotle pepper adds just the right amount of smoke and spice. I was initially worried that the sauce-to-meat ratio would be off (it just didn’t look like enough sauce!), but it turned out to be just enough to coat everything nicely without being TOO sloppy. We halved the recipe, and it still made enough for us to have a generous amount of leftovers. We’ll be making these again soon! 

    9.21.17 Parents need to eat

    Chipotle Sloppy Joes
    from PARENTS NEED TO EAT TOO
    by Debbie Koenig
    (2012) 

     

     

     

     INGREDIENTS:

    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 onions, finely chopped
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
    2 celery ribs, finely chopped
    2 pounds extra-lean ground beef or lean ground turkey 

    ½ cup water
    ½ cup ketchup
    1 chipotle in adobo, minced (remove the seeds if you’d like less heat), plus 1 ½ tablespoons adobo sauce
    3 tablespoons tomato paste
    2 tablespoons brown sugar, or pure maple syrup
    3 tablespoons cider vinegar
    2 teaspoons paprika
    1 ½ teaspoons dry mustard
    2 teaspoons chili powder
    1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    Salt and pepper

    Hamburger buns, for serving 

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skilled over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onions, garlic, pepper, and celery, and cook until softened, 5 to 8 minutes.
    2. Add the ground meat, raise heat to medium-high, and cook, breaking up the meat with the back of a spoon, until it’s no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes.
    3. Stir in the remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until flavors meld.
    4. Serve on hamburger buns 

    NOTES:

    Koenig recommends mixing all your sauce ingredients together in a 2-cup measuring cup while your other elements are cooking. I second this recommendation. I do not necessarily recommend allowing a toddler to help you with said mixing, but we avoided major disaster and only forgot the chili powder.

  • cooking the books 01

     

    This week, I was going to cook something healthy for you. Something that featured kale, or maybe an ancient grain, or maybe that adhered to "the Nordic diet" which, according to my quick search for "healthy food trends" revealed that "Nordic is the new Mediterranean." That article claimed that "eating like a Viking" was linked to lower blood pressure and weight loss. Guys. Eat like a Viking? First we were supposed to go Paleo and eat like Cavemen; now it's Vikings. The day someone tells me to eat more like a Conquistador, I'm done. 

    Anyhow, I had plans to make a wholesome, healthy dinner. And then Allison wrote this post celebrating International Chocolate Day, and you know what happened? Chocolate won. In the battle between kale and chocolate, chocolate always wins. So I wandered to the 641.6374's, which is the ingredient-specific Dewey Decimal classification for books devoted to chocolate, and I picked up one of Allison's recommendations, CHOCOLATE NEVER FAILETH (actually, I picked up several of them, but since I didn't have zucchini or exotic flours the "healthy" chocolate goodies weren't really an option). 

    This book did not fail me, and neither did the chocolate. Every recipe features chocolate in a prominent way; there are easy recipes and complex recipes and even inedible recipes, which made me giggle. The instructions for chocolate-scented playdough contained warnings that you should tell kids that even though it LOOKS and SMELLS like chocolate, we shouldn't eat it. That just seems like a cruel joke!

    Since my toddler and I were spending some quality alone time together while my husband worked, I decided to look for something quick and easy. The Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies did not disappoint; they come together quickly, even with the "help" of a toddler. They're hearty enough that they can stand up to maybe a little bit less flour because said toddler dumped all your remaining flour on the floor, leaving you 1/4 cup shy of the required 1 1/4 cups. There's just a hint of cinnamon, which adds a welcome twist to a traditional chocolate cookie. They satisfied my craving for chocolate, and since they've got oatmeal they qualify as a breakfast food! Right? Right? 

    Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
    from CHOCOLATE NEVER FAILETH
    by Annette Lyon
    (2010)

    Ingredients: 

    1 stick butter
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1 egg
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 1/4 cups flour
    3 tbsp cocoa
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1 1/4 cups oats
    1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

    Instructions: 

    1. Preheat oven to 350.

    2. Cream the butter and the brown sugar. Add the egg and vanilla. 

    3. Add the flour, chocoa, baking power, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix well. 

    4. Add the oats until completely moistened. Stir in the chocolate chips. 

    5. Drop onto a cookie sheet by spoonfuls and bake for 9-11 minutes. The cookies will still be very soft. Let them finish baking on the cookie sheet for an additional 10 minutes before letting them cool completely on wire racks. 

    Makes about 1 1/2 dozen (unless your toddler keeps snatching spoonfuls of dough. Then it will make five.) 

     

  • cooking the books 01

    I promise that I cook my family more than meatloaf. Really, I do. In the small handful of recipes I’ve shared with you here from library cookbooks, it seems like meatloaf is really over-represented. I solemnly swear that the next recipe I share will not be meatloaf. 

    Right now, I am very pregnant. I’m the kind of pregnant where just standing up for more than 5 minutes makes me tired and winded. The kind of pregnant where people passing me in the hallway look at my belly and then give me sympathetic looks. With only a few weeks until my baby is due, you can bet that the meals that I’m cooking for my family are getting few and far between and are starting to consist of things I can mostly prepare sitting down. 

    That’s why the concept of a “dump meal” appealed to me; something simple that didn’t require constant tending and simmering and checking on things. Something I could mix, pop in the oven, and then leave alone while I took a short nap on the couch. 

    I chose this recipe because I already had most of the things on hand. I would put it in the solidly “okay” category. I probably needed to amp up the seasoning a little bit; I put in 2 lbs of ground beef instead of 1 ½ and though I tried to compensate by adding a little bit more of everything, I still wished for a little more flavor. 

    The plus side? These took approximately 5 minutes to mix, 3 minutes to put in the muffin tins, and 15 minutes to bake. They made enough that we’ll be eating leftovers for a few days, which means I don’t have to cook again, and at this point in my pregnancy that’s the kind of mealtime math I like. 

    12.21.17 Dump DinnersEasy Pizza-style Mini Meatloaf Cups
    from Dump Dinners
    by Julia Grady
    (2015)

     

     Ingredients: 

    1 egg, beaten
    ½ cup pizza sauce plus extra for topping
    ¼ cup bread crumbs, Italian-seasoned
    1 teaspoon basil
    1 teaspoon oregano
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    1 ½ pounds ground beef
    1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese, shredded 

    Instructions:

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat muffin tins with cooking spray.
    2. In a bowl, mix together egg, pizza sauce, bread crumbs, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Add ground beef and mix well.
    3. Divide mixture evenly into muffin tins. Press down in center of beef mixture to make indent in center. Fill center with shredded cheese.
    4. Bake for 15 minutes or until meat is cooked through. Serve topped with additional sauce and cheese. 

    Makes 12 servings.

  • cooking the books 01

     

    As I write this second post documenting my efforts to cook at least one recipe from every cookbook the Library owns, it strikes me how impossible this task may be. Ah, well. If I fail, I hope to fail deliciously. 

    In the last month I've hardly done any cooking, and I think it's due to a condundrum summed up so well in Seinfeld's "Nighttime Guy vs. Morning Guy" routine. When it comes to cooking, there are several different Erikas. 10 AM Erika thinks she can do anything; she has boundless energy, she's working in a mostly clean and organized office, and she comes up with ideas like, "Cook a recipe from every cookbook ever!". The problem is that 10 AM Erika has a tendency to make plans that 6:30 PM Erika can't possibly follow through on. 6:30 PM Erika is tired; 6:30 PM Erika goes home to a house ruled by an energetic toddler, and inbetween feeding him and stepping over various configurations of Lego, 6:30 PM Erika isn't remotely interested in cooking anything, let alone cooking something that might require her to julienne carrots or "stir constantly for 10 minutes or until thickened." 

    At first I thought that the slow cooker would be my answer, but 7 AM Erika is even less with-it than these other Erikas, and is working hard just to get to work on time because midnight Erika thought it would be a good idea to watch "just one more" episode of The Good Wife. So, finally realizing that I needed to try to different approach or resign myself to endless dinners of frozen pizza and mac and cheese, I wandered into the 641.555 section which contains nearly every book by Rachel Ray and an assortment of other "fast and easy" meal cookbooks. While browsing this section, THE THREE INGREDIENT COOKBOOK by Jenny White caught my eye, because in addition to cooking, guess what else 6:30 PM Erika hates? You got it: grocery shopping. Three ingredients seemed right up my lazy alley. 

    As I browsed the recipes, some of them seemed to be cheating a little bit (does it count as three ingredients if one of the ingredients is pancakes? Seems like a sneaky way to put in 7 additional ingredients to me...), and some of them called for fancy ingredients I don't typically stock in my pantry, but I did find several recipes that seemed fast, easy, yummy, and that used things I already had in my pantry. Bonus: this cookbook has a whole section on simple accompaniments to help you go beyond main-dish planning and round out your meal. 

    I finally decided to make Honey Mustard Chicken because it calls for things that I almost always have. If you're not the kind of person who always has a nice wholegrain or course ground mustard in your fridge, repent immediately and buy some; it's an easy way to pack a lot of flavor into a dish without a lot of effort. As I watched this dish cook I was a bit worried that it wouldn't be very flavorful because the honey mustard mixture kept slipping off the chicken, but I kept basting as the recipe suggests and was happy to discover that it was really flavorful. I served this with a simple pasta salad made with vegetables from my garden and some fresh mozzarella, and my husband and I were well-fed. The toddler ate the salad and kept saying he was eating "snakes", which was adorable and maybe just a bit terrifying. 

    honey mustard chicken

    Honey Mustard Chicken
    from THE THREE INGREDIENT COOKBOOK: 200 FABULOUS FUSS-FREE RECIPES USING THREE INGREDIENTS OR LESS
    by Jenny Smith
    (2004)

    Ingredients: 

    8 chicken thighs 
    4 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
    4 tablespoons clear honey

    Instructions: 

    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the chicken thighs in a roasting pan in a single layer. 

    2. Mix together the mustard and honey, season with salt and ground black pepper to taste and brush the mixture all over the chicken thighs. 

    3. Cook for 25-30 minutes, brushing the chicken with the pan juices occasionally, until cooked through. (To check the chicken is cooked through, skewer it with a sharp knife; the juices should run clear.)

     *Chicken thighs have a rich flavor, but if you want to cut down on fat, use four chicken breast portions instead and cook for 20-25 minutes.